The Ultimate Taboo 1
‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived at Cleveland’s Union Station on the New York Central train from Chicago at 4:20 p.m. on May 7 [May 6 – ed.], 1912. During the past two weeks, Americans had learned of his battle against the ideologies of racial prejudice from major Washington newspapers and the Chicago Defender. But hardly anyone, whether black or white, had any inkling of just how far ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was willing to go.
Reporters and visitors followed him up to his rooms after his evening talk to 200 people at the Hotel Euclid. To an African-American clergyman and a group of about twenty white women sitting in a circle, he broached the most dangerous of all subjects. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, one of Ohio’s biggest newspapers, reported it unvarnished the next morning [May 7]:
“Abdul Baha . . . declared last night for an amalgamation of the white and negro races by intermarriage.” What ‘Abdu’l-Bahá advocated was illegal in twenty-nine of the forty-eight states — but not in Ohio.
Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C.
The friends and reporters met ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at the train station when He arrived at 4:00 P.M. on May 6. He checked into rooms at the Hotel Euclid and talked to the reporters, and an hour later went to Dr. C. M. Swingle’s home to talk to the Bahá’ís.
He returned to the Hotel for a public meeting attended by some five hundred people, many of whom had to stand. Afterward, a number of them, including reporters, followed Him to His rooms and asked Him questions on various subjects, including intermarriage. This latter discussion caused front-page headlines the next day.
The Cleveland News article stated:
WED RACES? SURE …
“Perfect results follow the marriage of black and white races. All men are the progeny of one… They are of different colors, but the follow is nothing.” — Abdu’l-Bahá
“I believe Abdul Baha is absolutely right. It is inevitable that all races will unite. Black and white and yellow will intermarry and make one perfect race. It is the only logical conclusion.” — Mrs. C. M. Swingle. 2
Talk at Euclid Hall, Cleveland, Ohio
This revered American nation presents evidences of greatness and worth. It is my hope that this just government will stand for peace so that warfare may be abolished throughout the world and the standards of national unity and reconciliation be upraised. This is the greatest attainment of the world of humanity. This American nation is equipped and empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to become the envy of the world and be blest in the East and the West for the triumph of its democracy. I pray that this may come to pass, and I ask the blessing of God in behalf of you all. 3
Monday, May 6, 1912 4
‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Chicago for Cleveland in the morning. As He was leaving, Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís surrounded Him like moths around a light, their hearts burning with thoughts of separation and tears flowing from their eyes.
The train reached Cleveland in the afternoon. Many friends and newspaper reporters were at the station to welcome Him. The reporters photographed Him with His companions and asked for an interview.
After making arrangements at the Euclid Hotel for His stay, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave the reporters permission to visit. He gave them an account of the history and teachings of the Cause. One of them questioned Him about His mission. He replied:
My message is the oneness of humanity and universal peace; the harmony of true science and religion; the equality of rights; the elimination of religious, racial and political prejudices; the truth of all the divine religions; the removal of religious imitations and superstitions; the education of women to such a degree that they may have equal rights with men; the adjustment of the economic condition of all people so that if a rich man enjoys honor and affluence, the poor man may also have a mat to lie on and a house to dwell in; the establishment of spiritual civilization; the reformation of human morals; the unity of all religions, so that when the people of the world recognize the truth of all religions, they may become united since truth is one — if they follow imitation, war and dissension shall remain, because imitations are the cause of differences.
After an hour, He left the hotel for Dr Swingle’s home for a meeting with the Bahá’ís. After He had some tea, He entered a room that was filled to capacity. He spoke to the friends about the prosperity of America and the perfecting of material civilization with spiritual refinement, the rising of the Sun of Truth, the raising of the divine call and spreading the teachings of God. The friends were deeply moved and full of admiration. Through their meeting with Him, they had found new life. At the beginning of the meeting, a photograph was taken of Him with His companions and some of the friends.
In the evening, the auditorium of the Euclid Hotel was full and there was standing room only. About five hundred Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís were enchanted by His charm and speech. The meeting began and ended with music. The audience was most appreciative of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk on the necessity of religion, the dangers of war and the benefits of love, unity and harmony.
- Menon, Jonathan. “The Ultimate Taboo.” 239 Days in America, May 6, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/06/the-ultimate-taboo/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 60. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 103. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/6#532038348 ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section43. ↩