The first Inter-racial Baha’i Marriage

June 23, 2021
The first Inter-racial Baha’i Marriage

Race-Unity-Justice

The first Inter-racial Baha’i Marriage

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

‘Abdu’l-Baha encouraged the first inter-racial Baha’i marriage of its kind, between Louis Gregory, (an African-American man) and Louisa (“Louise”) Mathews, (a white British woman). The marriage took place on the 27th of September in New York City, New York. At this time interracial marriage was legal in Washington but not socially acceptable. It was outlawed in 25 US states.

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

A year later Gregory and Mathew met again in America, ‘Abdu’l-Baha 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 emphatically and with His face wreathed in a smile “You must be very good friends.”

Before ‘Abdu’l-Baha left Chicago, Mathew asked Him plainly one morning if she had understood correctly that He wished Mr. Gregory and her to marry. He said “yes.” He did wish it. “I wish the white and the colored to marry,” He added.

She intimated that as a woman she could do nothing to bring it about. He asked “Do you love him, would you marry him if he asked you?” and 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 they would marry, which came as an utter surprise to him who 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 Mathew were to marry.”

Only then did the potential attachment He 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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