In 1912, Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, traveled from coast to coast across America after a lifetime of imprisonment and persecution.
He called on America to become a land of spiritual distinction and leadership and gave a powerful vision of America’s spiritual destiny — to lead the way in establishing the oneness of humanity.1
Abdu’l-Baha in Cleveland:
Persian Hailed as New “Messiah,” Comes to Teach Unity of the World – Cleveland Ohio Leader – April 22, 1912 (audio)
BAHAIST APPROVES UNIONS OF RACES – Cleveland Plain Dealer
Abdu’l-Baha arrives in Cleveland on May 6, 1912.
‘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, 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:
“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. 239 Days In America
Abdu’l-Baha and Bahá’ís at Dr. Swingle’s Sanitorium in Cleveland, Ohio May 6, 1912
Talk at Sanatorium of Dr. C. M. Swingle Cleveland, Ohio May 6, 1912
In Cleveland, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá uttered these potent words in the opening sentences of one of His many public addresses: “The American continent gives signs and evidences of very great advancement; its future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far-reaching, and it will lead all nations spiritually.” He then discussed the prerequisite for the fulfillment of so astonishing a prediction. While acknowledging the necessity of material progress in America, He likened a “material civilization” to a body, “whereas divine civilization is the spirit in that body.” Hence, He hoped that the American people, recognizing this reality, “may attain both material and spiritual progress.” Shoghi Effendi explains that the repeated comments of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá concerning America’s future are indications of the potencies released by the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, which will eventually impel the American people and government to take initiatives that will lead ultimately toward a global political union similar in its characteristics to the federal union of the United States. Calling America To Its Spiritual Destiny
Talk by ‘Abdu’l-Baha at Euclid Hall, Cleveland, Ohio May 6, 1912 The Capacity of Humankind will be Tested
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. Promulgation of Universal Peace, Talks by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in America
Abdu’l-Baha in Cincinnati:
Upon reaching Cincinnati Abdu’l-Baha gave a public talk to five-hundred people at Grand Hotel
Teaches Harmony of All Religions Youngstown Ohio Telegram – May 25, 1912
Talk by Abdu’l-Baha at Grand Hotel – Cincinnati, Ohio – November 5, 1912 (audio)
In His (Baha’u’llah) Epistles He asked the parliaments of the world to send their wisest and best men to an international world conference which should decide all questions between the peoples and establish universal peace. This would be the highest court of appeal, and the parliament of man so long dreamed of by poets and idealists would be realized. Its accomplishment would be more far-reaching than the Hague tribunal…I am most grateful to President Taft for having extended his influence toward the establishment of universal peace. What he has accomplished in making treaties with various nations is very good, but when we have the interparliamentary body composed of delegates from all the nations of the world and devoted to the maintenance of agreement and goodwill, the utopian dream of sages and poets, the parliament of man, will be realized.
On Election Day, Abdu’l-Baha Praises Cincinnati’s Favorite Son
America is a Noble Nation, the Standard-Bearer of Peace article BahaiTeachings.org by Jonathan Menon
Notes: 1. ‘Abdul-Bahá’s Journey Across America
Abdu’l-Baha, (1844-1921), eldest son of Baha’u’llah and His chosen successor, was known as an ambassador of peace, a champion of justice, and the leading exponent of a new Faith. He was awarded a knighthood by the British Mandate of Palestine for his humanitarian efforts during WWI. Through a series of epoch-making travels to Africa, North America (239 Days In America) and Europe,`Abdu’l-Bahá–by word and example–proclaimed with persuasiveness and force the essential principles of his Father’s religion. Upon his death ten thousand people–Jews, Christians, and Muslims from all denominations–gathered on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land to mourn his passing. Today he is embraced by more than 5 million Baha’is as the perfect Exemplar of what it means to be a Baha’i.
In 2021 the Bahá’í community will mark the Centenary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. At the time of His passing His mortal remains were laid to rest within a vault of the Mausoleum of the Báb. It was envisaged by Shoghi Effendi that this would be a temporary arrangement. A Shrine was to be erected, of a character befitting the unique station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, at the appropriate time. Design concept for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha Unveiled September 20, 2019. Coverage of construction work for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l‑Baha.