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The Baha’i ‘Race Amity’ Movement and the Black Intelligentsia in Jim Crow America: Alain Locke and Robert S. Abbott

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This study demonstrates how the Baha’i ‘Race Amity’ efforts effectively reached the black intelligentsia during the Jim Crow era, attracting the interest and involvement of two influential giants of the period – Alain Leroy Locke, PhD (1885–1954) and Robert S. Abbott, LLB (1870–1940). Locke affiliated with the Baha’i Faith in 1918, and Abbott formally joined the Baha’i religion in 1934. Another towering figure in the black intelligentsia, W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) – whose first wife, Nina Du Bois (d. 1950), was a member of the New York Baha’i community – had sustained, for a period of time, consider¬able interest in the Baha’i movement, as documented in a forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Religious History, guest edited by Todd Lawson. These illustrious figures – W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain L. Locke and Robert S. Abbott – are ranked as the 4th, 36th and 41st most influential African Americans in American history. It is not so much the intrinsic message of the Baha’i religion that attracted the interest of the black intelligentsia, but rather the Baha’i emphasis on ‘race amity’ – representing what, by Jim Crow standards, may be regarded as a socially audacious – even radical – application of the Baha’i ethic of world unity, from family relations to international relations, to the prevailing American social crisis.
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Keywords: Alain Locke; Jim Crow; Robert S. Abbott; W. E. B. Du Bois; black intelligentsia; race amity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Pennsylvania State University

Publication date: September 4, 2012

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