The first interracial Baha’i marriage

June 23, 2021
The first interracial Baha’i marriage


The first interracial Baha’i marriage

Source: ‘Abdu’l-Baha in America | bahai-encyclopedia-project

‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah and leader of the Baha’i Faith in the early 1900s, encouraged the first interracial Baha’i marriage between Louis Gregory, (an African American man) and Louisa Mathews, (a white British woman). The marriage took place on September 27 in New York City. At the time, interracial marriage was legal in Gregory’s hometown of Washington, D.C.,  but was not socially acceptable. It was outlawed in 25 US states.

In early 1911, Gregory traveled to Egypt, where ‘Abdu’l-Baha was residing at the time, and then visited the Baha’i holy places in Ottoman Palestine. He was the African American Baha’i to have the privilege of going on such a pilgrimage. Mathew’s pilgrimage coincided with Gregory’s. Towards the end of their time in the Holyland,  ‘Abdu’l-Baha summoned Gregory and Mathews, raising the topic of intermarriage and telling Gregory, “If you have any influence to get the races to intermarry, it will be very valuable.”  Gregory and Mathews thought of each other only as friends.

A year later the two met again in the United States, while ‘Abdu’l-Baha was traveling there. He urged them to consider their relationship in a new light. While in Chicago ‘Abdu’l-Baha approached Mathew asking, “How are you and Mr. Gregory getting along?” Startled, she answered, “What do you mean?  We are good friends.” To which He replied with a smile, “You must be very good friends.”

One morning before ‘Abdu’l-Baha left Chicago, Mathews asked Him plainly whether she had understood correctly that He wished her and Mr. Gregory to marry. He did wish it. He said “yes,” adding, “I wish the white and the colored to marry.”

She intimated that as a woman she could do nothing to bring the union about. He asked, “Do you love him, would you marry him if he asked you?”  She replied “yes.” Then He said, “if he loves you he will ask you.” Later in the morning…, He told Gregory it would give Him much pleasure if they would marry, which came as an utter surprise as Gregory had no thoughts of marriage. ‘Abdu’l-Baha said “What is the matter? Don’t you love her?” “Yes, as a friend,” Gregory said. “Well, think of it,” said ‘Abdu’l-Baha, “and let me know;…marriage is not an ordinance and need not be obeyed, but it would give me much pleasure if you and Miss Mathews were to marry.”

Only then did the potential attachment ‘Abdu’l-Baha had sensed between them blossom into love. 

Five months later, they exchanged Baha’i vows. In a “Tablet” (translated March 14, 1914), the prayer, “Verily, they are married in obedience to Thy command. Cause them to become the signs of unity and harmony until the end of time…” was revealed for their wedding by ‘Abdu’l-Baha. 

`Abdu’l-Baha lauded the Gregorys’ marriage as “an introduction to the accomplishment” of harmony between the races.

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