239 Days in America, Day 152: September 09, 1912 | Montreal

The Golden Horseshoe Returns ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America 1

“I CONSECRATED MY LIFE to making Canada a nation,” Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s former Prime Minister, said yesterday — Sunday, September 8, 1912 — in Marieville, Quebec. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá might have seen the news story on the front page of the Toronto Globe late this afternoon — Monday, September 9 — while he paced the platform of Toronto’s Union Station after a dusty seven-hour train ride from Montreal.

Last night in Montreal was a night to remember. The new Prime Minister, Robert Borden, whose Conservative Party had defeated Laurier’s Liberals in last autumn’s election by opposing Laurier’s free trade agreement with the United States, disembarked from the steamer Lady Grey at Montreal’s Victoria Pier at about 8 p.m. He had just come from Europe, where he had joined other leaders from King George V’s empire in renewing Britain’s pledge to the Entente Cordiale with France. Flags and bunting lined the streets, marching bands played, and thousands of citizens gathered and cheered. Hundreds of automobiles clogged the parade route, as if trying to prove how eagerly the new transport revolution was sweeping the city. A mile-long procession accompanied the Prime Minister to the Windsor Hotel, where ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also happened to be staying on his final night in Montreal.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Montreal an hour ahead of Prime Minister Borden this morning, on a 9 a.m. train bound for Buffalo. It stopped in the town of Brockville, near the Thousand Islands, at about 10:30. It passed Kingston, and then Belleville at 1:47 p.m., from where the Great Peacemaker, Deganawidah, set out across Lake Ontario in a canoe hewn from stone to forge the Iroquois Confederacy among six warring nations in present-day New York state. Near Oshawa, at about 3:30 p.m., a four-year-old Mohawk boy, Jimmy Loft, saw ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wave to him from a window of the passing train.

Buffalo, Chicago, Kenosha 2

After a dusty, hot, stifling ride, the train from Montreal to Buffalo stopped at Toronto where Abdu’l-Bahá walked for a time on the platform. He arrived in Buffalo late at night on Monday, September 9; but, as He had instructed, the friends had not been informed. By the next morning, however, the reporters and friends were lined up outside the door of His hotel room.

Monday, September 9, 1912 3

In the morning the bill for $700 for the week’s stay at the hotel was paid. As usual, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá directed me to take personal charge of His bags and move them myself. I fell short of my duty as the hotel stewards carried His bags with the other luggage. When He saw that His bags were not with me, He said: ‘In spite of these repeated reminders, you were neglectful. I would not have asked you to be so careful had it not contained valuable documents and writings which I wish to present to the libraries of London and Paris. Otherwise, material things are not important to me.’

All luggage sent through the railway station had to be examined by the Customs officers; but the chief officer at the Customs and his assistants passed our baggage, indicating that they were perfectly satisfied and had no reason to examine the effects of the Bahá’ís! When the Master was told this, His face opened up like a rose and He expounded on the stations of truthfulness and trustworthiness, which are the sources of the prosperity and assurance of the people of the world.

The enthusiasm and ardor of the friends knew no bounds. They surrounded ‘Abdu’l-Bahá like moths. Until the train pulled out of the station at nine o’clock, the friends continued to sigh and express their sorrow at His departure.

It is astonishing to see that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá does not want any comfort and will not take any rest, even while traveling on the train. When translations of the newspaper articles and letters from the friends were read to Him, He immediately answered and bestowed His bounties upon them. To some He wrote in His own hand. When He was tired of writing, the Master spoke about the coming of Christ from the heaven of holiness:

“The Gospel expressly records that in His first coming, although Christ was born to Mary, He Himself said that He came from heaven. Thus, the meaning of ‘heaven’ is the greatness of the Cause and eminence and might of the Manifestation of God Who spreads this divine Cause by His heavenly power and divine strength and not through material means.”

Whenever His eyes fell on the luxuriant beauty of the lakes and rivers along the route He would remember the Blessed Perfection.

At noon He said to us: ‘You have lunch. I will not eat anything until I am hungry.’

The air in the coach was stifling and, owing to the speed of the train, even though the windows and doors were closed, the dust was heavy. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá felt tired. When the train reached Toronto to change tracks, He walked a little on the platform, saying that He was exhausted. ‘We have not gone far, He said, ‘yet we feel tired. How will the great distance to California be traversed? We have no choice, as in the path of God we must regard troubles as blessings and discomforts as greatest bounties.’ We reached Buffalo late at night but, in obedience to His request, the friends were not informed.

5 September 1912, Talk at St. James Methodist Church, Montreal, Canada 4

… In order that human souls, minds and spirits may attain advancement, tranquillity and vision in broader horizons of unity and knowledge, Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed certain principles or teachings, some of which I will mention.

First, man must independently investigate reality …

Second, the oneness of the world of humanity shall be realized, accepted and established. …

Third, religion must be the mainspring and source of love in the world …

Fourth, religion must reconcile and be in harmony with science and reason. …

Fifth, prejudice—whether it be religious, racial, patriotic or political in its origin and aspect—is the destroyer of human foundations and opposed to the commands of God. God has sent forth His Prophets for the sole purpose of creating love and unity in the world of human hearts. All the heavenly Books are the written word of love. If they prove to be the cause of prejudice and human estrangement, they have become fruitless. Therefore, religious prejudice is especially opposed to the will and command of God. Racial and national prejudices which separate mankind into groups and branches, likewise, have a false and unjustifiable foundation, for all men are the children of Adam and essentially of one family. There should be no racial alienation or national division among humankind. Such distinctions as French, German, Persian, Anglo-Saxon are human and artificial; they have neither significance nor recognition in the estimation of God. In His estimate all are one, the children of one family; and God is equally kind to them. The earth has one surface. God has not divided this surface by boundaries and barriers to separate races and peoples. Man has set up and established these imaginary lines, giving to each restricted area a name and the limitation of a native land or nationhood. By this division and separation into groups and branches of mankind, prejudice is engendered which becomes a fruitful source of war and strife. Impelled by this prejudice, races and nations declare war against each other; the blood of the innocent is poured out, and the earth torn by violence. Therefore, it has been decreed by God in this day that these prejudices and differences shall be laid aside. All are commanded to seek the good pleasure of the Lord of unity, to follow His command and obey His will; in this way the world of humanity shall become illumined with the reality of love and reconciliation.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

Preparations to leave Montreal for Buffalo

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

September 9, 1912


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “The Golden Horseshoe Returns ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America.” 239 Days in America, 9 Sept. 2012, https://239days.com/2012/09/09/golden-horseshoe-abdul-baha/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 139.
  3. ’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=7#section169
  4. 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, 316. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/22#910852942

239 Days in America, Day 101: July 20, 1912 | New York

The Secret of Divine Civilization 1

“IT IS A SPECTACLE never before witnessed,” William Jennings Bryan wrote from the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore. He was surprised at how aggressively moneyed interests had entered the political process in 1912. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had first gone on record about leadership and corruption thirty-seven years earlier, when he was just thirty-one years old. In 1875 he wrote a long, open letter — called The Secret of Divine Civilization — to the people and government of Persia in support of the early modernization efforts of Násiri’d-Dín Sháh, the king who had banished Bahá’u’lláh and his family from Iran.

In The Secret of Divine Civilization, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá demanded a high standard of conduct from political leaders: “First,” he wrote, “the elected members must be righteous, God-fearing, high-minded, incorruptible.” “These give no thought to amassing enormous fortunes for themselves; they believe, rather, that their own wealth lies in enriching their subjects.” He added: “They take no pride in gold and silver, but rather in their enlightenment and their determination to achieve the universal good.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s open letter to the people of Persia engaged a wide range of national issues. In America, Social Gospel churchmen marched in the forefront of reform, but in Iran the clergy, and their arbitrary interpretation of the law, was a major barrier to progress. Two plaintiffs could go to two different religious officials about the same case and receive opposite decisions. “It may even happen that in one and the same case two conflicting decisions will be handed down by the same mujtahid, on the grounds that he was inspired first in one direction and then in the other,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote. “There can be no doubt that this state of affairs has confused every important issue and must jeopardize the very foundations of society.”

New York City 2

The next day [July 20] He spoke extensively about the martyrs. On the following evening He was invited to the home of the Consul General of Turkey where he spoke to a group of Armenians.

When the July 20 issue of Harper’s Weekly appeared on the newsstands, it included an article entitled, “A Ray from the East,” by Charles Johnston:

During the past few months there has appeared at peace conferences, in fashionable pupils, and at select meetings of devotees, a venerable Oriental with benign eyes and a patriarchal beard who is heralded as the head of a new world-religion … 3

Saturday, July 20, 2022

‘Abdu’l-Bahá received an invitation from the Consul General of Turkey. After meeting with the friends and expressing His happiness at their devotion and unity, He left for the Consul’s home. He took the ferry across the water, then a tram and arrived at the Consul General’s house. The Consul himself had gone to meet the Master by another route but his wife and relatives received Him with the utmost respect and reverence until the Consul General returned.

A number of prominent men and statesmen, as well as the Consul General, were present. The Master rested for a short time in one of the rooms. Then the Consul General, praising ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, introduced Him to the audience. The Master came to the table and spoke on the danger of wine and alcohol. He then considered some philosophical subjects and answered questions from the Consul’s wife about misconduct and its harmful consequences. She was pleased and when He was about to depart expressed her gratitude by kissing His hand. Everyone begged His pardon for any lack in their service to Him.

The Consul General’s brother-in-law requested and obtained permission to take the Master’s photograph. The Consul General then accompanied the Master to the railway station to see Him off, even though ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had asked him not to do so.

At a gathering of Armenians in the evening the Master gave a stirring and impressive talk concerning the attributes of the world of humanity, spiritual courage and valor. His talk was not recorded because we arrived at the meeting late. 4

Talk at All Souls Unitarian Church, Fourth Avenue and Twentieth Street, New York, 14 July 1912 5

Other sources of human dissension are political, racial and patriotic prejudices. These have been removed by Bahá’u’lláh. He has said, and has guarded His statement by rational proofs from the Holy Books, that the world of humanity is one race, the surface of the earth one place of residence and that these imaginary racial barriers and political boundaries are without right or foundation. Man is degraded in becoming the captive of his own illusions and suppositions. The earth is one earth, and the same atmosphere surrounds it. No difference or preference has been made by God for its human inhabitants; but man has laid the foundation of prejudice, hatred and discord with his fellowman by considering nationalities separate in importance and races different in rights and privileges.

Diversity of languages has been a fruitful cause of discord. The function of language is to convey the thought and purpose of one to another. Therefore, it matters not what language man speaks or employs. Sixty years ago Bahá’u’lláh advocated one language as the greatest means of unity and the basis of international conference. He wrote to the kings and rulers of the various nations, recommending that one language should be sanctioned and adopted by all governments. According to this each nation should acquire the universal language in addition to its native tongue. The world would then be in close communication, consultation would become general, and dissensions due to diversity of speech would be removed.

Another teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is in relation to universal peace: that all mankind must be awakened to and become conscious of the harm of war, that they should be brought to realize the benefits of peace and know that peace is from God while warfare is satanic. Man must emulate the merciful God and turn away from satanic promptings in order that universal inclination shall be toward peace, love and unity and the discord of war vanish.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

Invitation from the Consul General of Turkey

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

July 20, 1912


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “The Secret of Divine Civilization.” 239 Days in America, 20 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/20/secret-of-divine-civilization/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 114.
  3. Charles Johnston, “A Ray from the East,” Harper’s Weekly, 59 (July 20, 1912), 9.
  4. ’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=5#section118
  5. 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, 232-233. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#387272638

239 Days in America, Day 52: June 01, 1912 | New York

Percy Stickney Grant Doubles Down on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1

But it wasn’t the first time [Percy Stickney] Grant had come up against Bishop [Charles Sumner] Burch. Back in 1912 Burch had reprimanded him for inviting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to sit in the Bishop’s Chair behind the altar rail on April 14, the morning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delivered his first public address in America. Bishop [John Gardner] Murray of Maryland had reacted even more strongly, banning ‘Abdu’l-Bahá from Episcopal churches throughout his state.

“But an idiotic thing like that would never stop Percy Grant — only make him more defiant,” Juliet Thompson later wrote in her diary.

Indeed it did. The Reverend Dr. Percy Stickney Grant had already invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá back to the Church of the Ascension, to speak to the People’s Forum on Sunday evening, June 2, 1912.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2

On Saturday, June 1, the New York Times reported a “color line” at the University of Michigan, which banned Hindu students. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the train station accompanied by weeping friends and returned to New York where He told the friends about the Fanwood trip.

One of the inquirers that afternoon was a Socialist, to whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:

Go to the socialists and say that partnership in the properties and lands of this world is the source of strife and warfare. But partnership and inheritance in the kingdom are a cause of love and amity, If you will put your efforts to gain the precepts of the kingdom instead of worldly rights, you will gain perpetual happiness.

Mahmúd noted: “Every person with a particular interest was addressed similarly.”

Can you paint Me in a half hour? 3

The Master has begun to pose for me. He had said: “Can you paint Me in a half hour?”

“A half hour, my Lord?” I stammered, appalled. I can never finish a head in less than two weeks.

“Well, I will give you three half hours. You mustn’t waste My time, Juliet.”

He told me to come to Him Saturday morning, 1 June, at seven-thirty.

I went in a panic. He was waiting for me in the entrance hall, a small space in the English basement where the light–not much of it–comes from the south. In fact I found myself faced with every kind of handicap. I always paint standing, but now I was obliged to sit, jammed so close to the window (because of the lack of distance between the Master and me) that I couldn’t even lean back. No light. No room. And I had brought a canvas for a life-size head.

The Master was seated in a dark corner, His black ‘abá melting into the background; and again I saw Him as the Face of God, and quailed. How could I paint the Face of God?

“I want you,” He said, “to paint My Servitude to God.”

“Oh my Lord,” I cried, “only the Holy Spirit could paint Your Servitude to God. No human hand could do it. Pray for me, or I am lost. I implore You, inspire me.”

“I will pray,” He answered, “and as you are doing this only for the sake of God, you will be inspired.”

And then an amazing thing happened. All fear fell away from me and it was as though Someone Else saw through my eyes, worked through my hand.

All the points, all the planes in that matchless Face were so clear to me that my hand couldn’t put them down quickly enough, couldn’t keep pace with the clarity of my vision. I painted in ecstasy, free as I had never been before.

At the end of the half hour the foundation of the head was perfect.

Talk at Town Hall, Fanwood, New Jersey, 31 May 1912 4

Therefore, it is evident that the Prophets of God have come to unite the children of men and not to disperse them, to establish the law of love and not enmity. Consequently, we must lay aside all prejudice—whether it be religious, racial, political or patriotic; we must become the cause of the unification of the human race. Strive for universal peace, seek the means of love, and destroy the basis of disagreement so that this material world may become divine, the world of matter become the realm of the Kingdom and humanity attain to the world of perfection.

Saturday, June 1, 1912 5

In great humility a group of Bahá’ís came to the railway station to bid farewell to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Everyone was weeping as the train left. When He left, the Master was in a devout and meditative mood.

Upon His return to New York, He spoke to a gathering of friends about the harm of intoxicating beverages and also related some historical stories to the friends. In the afternoon some Bahá’ís and inquirers visited Him in His room, one after the other. Among them was a socialist. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in part:

“Tell the socialists that sharing of property and land in this mortal world is the source of strife and warfare but sharing and inheritance in the Kingdom is the cause of love and unity. If you put your efforts into understanding the precepts of the Kingdom instead of into acquiring worldly shares and rights, you will gain perpetual joy and happiness. The Kingdom of God is vast. He will give you whatever you desire and there will be no place for strife and conflict. Is this not preferable and more pleasing?”

Each visitor with a particular interest was addressed similarly and each departed in joy.

’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny

Mahmud: June 1 – “The Kingdom of God is vast. He will give you whatever you desire…”

Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America

Curated by Anne Perry

June 1, 1912


  1. Menon, Jonathan. “Percy Stickney Grant Doubles Down on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” 239 Days in America, 2 June 2012, https://239days.com/2012/06/01/percy-stickney-grant-doubles-down-on-abdul-baha/.
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 75-76.
  3. Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 298-299. https://archive.org/details/diaryofjuliettho0000thom/page/298/mode/2up.
  4. 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, 162-163. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/12#113894423.
  5. ’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=4#section69.

239 Days in America, Day 29: May 09, 1912 | Washington, D.C.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses 1

Other churches in Washington also objected to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Washington Post reported on April 29 that Methodists were praying for him — that he would see the light and go home. The Rev. Dr. James Montgomery told his congregation at the Metropolitan Memorial M. E. Church that he wished that “some of those who have listened to Abdul’s lectures would take the role of teacher themselves, and convert to Christ this remarkable priest of the ‘universal cult.’ ” While ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was “doubtless sincere,” he said, he hoped that becoming a Christian would enable him to “return to his Eastern home a greater man.”

Just four days ago, Dr. Ernest C. Smith reminded his congregation at St. Thomas’s Church, near Dupont Circle, that “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Nothing good could possibly come out of Persia, he believed, but the bigger problem was that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá raised other religions to the same status as the one taught by Jesus Christ, “whom we dare not compare.” “Because of these things,” Smith said, “the only Godspeed we can bid him is a Godspeed back to his own country.”

In spite of these reports, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá doesn’t seem at all perturbed by the negative press. He told one friend that he doesn’t worry about criticism. “The denunciation by the leaders of religion,” he said, “is a proof of the greatness and influence of the Cause because no one pays any attention to something insignificant.”

Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, May 9, people came to Him all day long. Many ministers invited Him to speak in their churches. When a few spoke against Him, He observed, “‘I deal with people very gently that they may not turn away and raise the least objection. Yet these ministers have accused us of atheism…’”. 2 3

Talk at Hotel Schenley, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 7 May 1912

The fourth principle or teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the readjustment and equalization of the economic standards of mankind. This deals with the question of human livelihood. It is evident that under present systems and conditions of government the poor are subject to the greatest need and distress while others more fortunate live in luxury and plenty far beyond their actual necessities. This inequality of portion and privilege is one of the deep and vital problems of human society. That there is need of an equalization and apportionment by which all may possess the comforts and privileges of life is evident. The remedy must be legislative readjustment of conditions. The rich too must be merciful to the poor, contributing from willing hearts to their needs without being forced or compelled to do so. The composure of the world will be assured by the establishment of this principle in the religious life of mankind.

The fifth principle or teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the abandoning of religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudices, which destroy the foundations of human society. All mankind are creatures and servants of the one God. The surface of the earth is one home; humanity is one family and household. Distinctions and boundaries are artificial, human. Why should there be discord and strife among men? All must become united and coordinated in service to the world of humanity. 4

Thursday, May 9, 1912 5

There was a continuous going and coming of visitors at the Master’s house from morning until noon. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had lunch at Mrs Parsons’s, where in the afternoon He received many people. In the evening He addressed a well-attended meeting, speaking on the principles and tenets of the Faith and counseling the friends to pay no attention to those who objected to the Cause. As the fame of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Cause spread, certain narrow-minded ministers had, out of jealously, raised their voices in opposition. At the end of the meeting the Master said:

“Although I pay great respect to the feelings of people in order that they may not run away or make the least objection, yet the religious ministers of Washington have denounced us.”

Then He said:

“The denunciation by the leaders of religion is a proof of the greatness and influence of the Cause because no one pays any attention to something insignificant.”

Today various clergymen invited the Master to honor their churches by addressing their congregations. He told them that He was unable to accept because He had limited time but that He would be returning to Washington DC.

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses.” 239 Days in America, May 9, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/09/its-not-all-sunshine-and-roses/.
  2. Bagdadi, Zia. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá in America,” Star of the West, 19, no. 5. (Aug. 1928) 141.
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 64.
  4. 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, 107-108. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/7#904155405
  5. ’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#section46.

239 Days in America, Day 20: April 30, 1912 | Chicago

The Fallout from a City in Flames 1

Next door to Handel Hall, at the Masonic Temple on the corner of State and Randolph Streets, another convention was underway that evening. Fifty-eight delegates from forty-three cities were about to elect nine members to the governing board of the Bahá’í Temple Unity, a national body formed to coordinate the largest project ever undertaken by the Bahá’ís in North America: the construction of an enormous house of worship north of Chicago. White fluted columns with capitals wrapped in acanthus leaves surrounded the delegates in Corinthian Hall as they cast their secret ballots.

After the first round of voting there was a tie for ninth place between Frederick Nutt, a white doctor from Chicago, and Louis Gregory 2, the black lawyer from Washington, DC. In a dramatic departure from the vicious 1912 Presidential election, which raged all around them, each man resigned in favor of the other.

Then Mr. Roy Wilhelm 3, a delegate from Ithaca, NY, stood and put forward a proposal. His motion, seconded by Dr. Homer S. Harper of Minneapolis, recommended that the convention accept Dr. Nutt’s resignation.

The delegates assented unanimously.

To have elected an African American to the governing board of a national organization of largely middle- and upper-class white Americans — and to have done so at the nadir of the Jim Crow era in 1912 — was rare in the extreme. Even the NAACP had only elected one black member to its executive committee when it had been formed in 1909.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s assault on the color line was beginning to bear fruit.

Chicago

It was a warm, springlike day on Tuesday, April 30, when Jane Addams welcomed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to an audience that far exceeded the auditorium’s seating capacity of 750. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke on the unity of races, saying, “God is not pleased with , neither should any reasonable or intelligent man be willing to recognize inequality in the races because of this distinction [color].” 4

Talk at Hull House, Chicago, Illinois

But there is need of a superior power to overcome human prejudices, a power which nothing in the world of mankind can withstand and which will overshadow the effect of all other forces at work in human conditions. That irresistible power is the love of God. It is my hope and prayer that it may destroy the prejudice of this one point of distinction between you and unite you all permanently under its hallowed protection. Bahá’u’lláh has proclaimed the oneness of the world of humanity. He has caused various nations and divergent creeds to unite. He has declared that difference of race and color is like the variegated beauty of flowers in a garden. If you enter a garden, you will see yellow, white, blue, red flowers in profusion and beauty—each radiant within itself and although different from the others, lending its own charm to them. Racial difference in the human kingdom is similar. If all the flowers in a garden were of the same color, the effect would be monotonous and wearying to the eye.

Therefore, Bahá’u’lláh hath said that the various races of humankind lend a composite harmony and beauty of color to the whole. Let all associate, therefore, in this great human garden even as flowers grow and blend together side by side without discord or disagreement between them. 5

Tuesday, April 30, 1912

Several friends and inquirers gathered in one of the rooms of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s suite and went in two or three at a time to speak with Him through an interpreter. Each returned transformed, soaring high in the atmosphere of happiness and joy. A few newspaper reporters were announced and He addressed them:

“We believe Bahá’u’lláh to be the supreme educator of the humanity. When the gloom of contention was spread over the Orient; when the nations of the East were steeped in enmity and hatred; when its religious sects shunned one another, denouncing one another as impure, and the people were ever engaged in war and the shedding of blood, Bahá’u’lláh appeared as the sun from the horizon of the East and summoned all to fellowship and harmony. He devoted Himself to their education and upliftment. He guided people from all nations and religions, cemented different denominations and united diverse nationalities to such an extent that if you attend their meetings you cannot say who is a Jew, who is a Muslim, who is a Parsi or who is a Christian. The despotic king of Persia with the legions of his ‘ulamá [Muslim clergymen] arose against Him and inflicted the severest persecution upon Him. They imprisoned Bahá’u’lláh and killed His followers. The oppression intensified to such a degree that all those who dared obey Bahá’u’lláh would lose life and property. But with all this, they could not resist Him; His teachings spread more and more. Then His persecutors exiled Him to Baghdád, whence He was sent to Rumelia and finally to the penal city of ‘Akká. He passed away in that city. I myself was in the same prison until the declaration of liberty by the Committee of Union and Progress when all prisoners were set free.

As to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, they are, first, the investigation of truth. The fundamental principle of all the Prophets is Truth. Truth is one. Abraham was the promulgator of truth; Moses was the servant of truth; Christ laid down the cornerstone of truth; Muhammad was the propagator of truth; the Báb was the herald of truth; and Bahá’u’lláh was the light of truth. Truth is the foundation of all the divine religions and is one. In truth there is no dissension. Imitations are different and are a cause of dissension and division. If people investigate truth and set aside imitations, all the nations will unite, for there exists no difference in religious truth; the differences lie in imitations only.

The second principle of Bahá’u’lláh is the unity of mankind. Bahá’u’lláh proclaims that all are the servants of one God; He has created all and provides for and sustains all. All are immersed in the ocean of His mercy and God is kind to all. Why should we be unkind to one another? We must follow the polity of God. Can we conceive a better polity than that of God?

The third principle He gave us is the harmony of science and religion. Both science and religion are truth. If religion is against reality and truth it is mere superstition. Every religious tenet that conflicts with true knowledge and sound reasoning is not worthy of belief. Thus the dogmas and imitations that stand in the way of science and progress must be removed.

The fourth principle is that religion must be the cause of unity, it must connect hearts to one another. Christ and all the other divine messengers came to create unity and love. Therefore, if religion becomes the cause of differences, its nonexistence is preferable.

The fifth principle is that all religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudices are the causes of war and the destroyers of the edifice of humanity. All these must be discarded and abolished.

The sixth principle is Universal Peace. Humanity must achieve this peace. Until its light illumines the decisions of the leaders and governments of the world, humanity will find no rest.

The seventh principle is the equality of rights for men and women. The education of women must be equal to that of men so that they may advance and achieve the same status as men. Teachings of this kind are numerous. In addition to the visits of large numbers of people at the hotel both day and night, three large meetings were held, attended by almost three thousand people, all of whom were honored to see Abdu’l-Bahá. The first meeting was held at Hull House and was attended by both blacks and whites. The Master spoke on the subject of the unity and oneness of humanity; that God has given faculties and powers equally to all and that the different colors of humankind are like the various colors of the flowers of a garden, which increases the beauty and charm of the garden. His eloquent and impressive talk thrilled His listeners.”

In addition to the visits of large numbers of people at the hotel both day and night, three large meetings were held, attended by almost three thousand people, all of whom were honored to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The first meeting was held at Hull House and was attended by both blacks and whites.71 The Master spoke on the subject of the unity and oneness of humanity; that God has given faculties and powers equally to all and that the different colors of humankind are like the various colors of the flowers of a garden, which increases the beauty and charm of the garden. His eloquent and impressive talk thrilled His listeners.

There exists among the whites in America a marked animosity for the blacks, who are held in such low esteem that the whites do not allow them to attend their public functions and think it beneath their dignity to mix with them in some of the public buildings and hotels. One day, Dr Zia Bagdadi 6invited Mr [Louis] Gregory, a black Bahá’í, to his home. When his landlord heard about this, he gave notice to Dr Bagdadi to vacate his residence because he had had a black man in his home. Although such prejudice was intense, the influence of the Cause of God and the power of God’s Covenant is so great that in many cities in America hundreds of black and white Bahá’ís mingle together and associate with each other as brothers and sisters.

Another meeting held at Handel Hall especially to bring together the blacks and the whites. The Master offered a commentary on a verse from the Old Testament, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’: ‘By “image and likeness”‘, He said, ‘is meant human virtues and perfections and not the black or white color of the skin.’ The Master’s impressive talk transformed and deeply affected the gathering.

The Master then went to a third meeting, addressing some two thousand people at the Convention of the Bahá’í Temple Unity held at the spacious Drill Hall. The entire audience stood when the Master entered, even though not all were Bahá’ís. The friends were full of excitement and cried ‘Alláh-u-Abhá’ so loudly that the hall resounded with their voices.’After a song of praise and glorification, the Master gave a detailed and eloquent talk on the purpose of the Temple and the unification of all under one standard. He concluded His talk by chanting a prayer in Persian in a most melodious voice. Some of those attending the convention met Him outside and asked whether they could visit Him at His residence. The crowd gathered around Him until He got into His carriage. 7

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “The Fallout from a City in Flames.” 239 Days in America, April 30, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/30/the-fallout-from-a-city-in-flames/.
  2. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Louis Gregory (1874-1951).” Brilliant Star, April 6, 2020. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/louis-gregory-1874-1951.
  3. Radley, Gail. “Shining Lamp: Roy Wilhelm (1875-1951).” Brilliant Star, August 1, 2019. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/shining-lamp-roy-wilhelm-1875-1951.
  4. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 48.
  5. 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, 68-69. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#677388614.
  6. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Dr. Zia Mabsoot Bagdadi.” Brilliant Star, May 15, 2018. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/shining-lamp-dr.-zia-mabsoot-bagdadi.
  7. ’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=2#section37.

239 Days in America, Day 7: April 17, 1912 | New York, NY

“Deceiving the American People” 1

Aboard the Cedric six days earlier in New York Harbor, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had spoken to the reporters about the responsibilities of the modern mass media before he had said anything else. He had emphasized to the reporters who surrounded him that their papers did more than simply report news: they had the power to construct the public’s perception of what was true. “Newspapers are a mirror 2 which is endowed with hearing, sight and speech,” he said. “Those who play for their own little selfish ends give no true light to the world and perish of their own futility.” He later told his American friends to be careful about trusting anything they read about him, and only to invest their certainty in written words bearing his own signature.

First Days in America: New York City 3

Mahmúd, in recording ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s concern for racism, the most challenging issue in American society, wrote:

“As there existed enmity between the white and the colored races in America to such a degree that the white did not allow the colored to attend their meetings and other public functions, the Beloved strongly urged the friends to associate with each other in utmost joy and happiness. A successful meeting was convened in the home of Mr. Kinney where the audience consisted of friends and outsiders of both races—white and colored.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Exemplar, served these friends a meal which He prepared Himself, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney. “It was,” Mahmúd wrote, “a magnificent supper.”

Talk at Home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. Kinney , 780 West End Avenue, New York

As difference in degree of capacity exists among human souls, as difference in capability is found, therefore, individualities will differ one from another. But in reality this is a reason for unity and not for discord and enmity. If the flowers of a garden were all of one color, the effect would be monotonous to the eye; but if the colors are variegated, it is most pleasing and wonderful. The difference in adornment of color and capacity of reflection among the flowers gives the garden its beauty and charm. Therefore, although we are of different individualities, different in ideas and of various fragrances, let us strive like flowers of the same divine garden to live together in harmony. Even though each soul has its own individual perfume and color, all are reflecting the same light, all contributing fragrance to the same breeze which blows through the garden, all continuing to grow in complete harmony and accord. Become as waves of one sea, trees of one forest, growing in the utmost love, agreement and unity. 4

Wednesday, April 17, 1912

Among the dignitaries visiting the Master were several New York clergymen who invited Him to speak to their congregations. The Master told them, ‘I am going to Chicago in two days and therefore am unable to accept your invitation.’

Owing to the prejudice and hatred that has existed between blacks and whites, it has been impossible for white people to invite black people to their homes. Therefore ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has repeatedly encouraged the believers to promote fellowship and unity among these two races. ’An important meeting was held today at the home of Mr Kinney. It was attended by many Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís and demonstrated a strong bond of unity between whites and blacks. The Master said that the East has always been the dawning place of light, that this gathering of blacks and whites is like the gathering of many colored flowers and that the variety of colors enhances the beauty of the garden and brings about the loveliness of each.

In the evening the Master invited everyone to dinner, which He Himself prepared. He spoke about unity and love and demonstrated to everyone how to serve at the threshold of the Blessed Beauty. Indeed, it was a blessed evening and a wonderful example of generosity and bestowal in the highest degree. 5

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Deceiving the American People.’” 239 Days in America, April 17, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/17/deceiving-the-american-people/.
  2. “In this Day the secrets of the earth are laid bare before the eyes of men. The pages of swiftly-appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world. They reflect the deeds and the pursuits of diverse peoples and kindreds. They both reflect them and make them known. They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. This is an amazing and potent phenomenon. However, it behooveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should inquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing.”
    Baháʾuʾlláh. Tablets of Baháʾuʾlláh, Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Translated by Habib Taherzadeh. 1st ed. Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1978, 39-40. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/bahaullah/tablets-bahaullah/2#382290640.
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 26.
  4. 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, 24. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/2#862373562
  5. Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. 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=2#section24