History of the Bahá’í Faith in DC

On April 4th, a group of Bahá’ís from Arlington and DC and their friends got together for a bus tour of some of the places that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited on his trip to the United States in 1912. `Abdu’l-Bahá made three visits to Washington, DC in 1912: from April 20 to 28, from May 8 to 11, and from November 6 to 11. There are other tours being planned for May and November of this year, so if you are interested please contact Lex Musta at 202-253-6899 for more details or to reserve a seat on the bus for those trips.

Below are a list of the places we visited:

  • The Metropolitan African Methodists Episcopal Church (the AME Church) located on M street NW. It was here that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to the Bethel Literary Society. You can read the entire speech here. The Bethel Literary and Historical Society was established in 1881, and was the first national association of Africa-American intellectual leaders. Frederick Douglass spoke on a variety of occasion to this group, and past presidents of this society include Mary Church Terrell and Louis Gregory.
  • Arlington National Cemetery. While ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was in DC, he went with Agnes Parsons to pray at the grave of her father William B Royall. Mrs. Parsons is best known for organizing the first Race Amity Conference in 1921. She was a member of the national Race Amity Committees from 1924 through 1930, and was the chair from 1925 – 1928.
  • 1832 26th St, NW. This is currently a private residence owned by Mr. and Mrs. Boyle. In 1912 it was the home of Mírzá Ali-Kuli Khan and Madame Khan. Mr. Khan, a Bahá’í, was at that time Charge d’Affaires of the Persian Legation, and he hosted a luncheon for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at this townhome. Louis Gregory had been speaking with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but left before the luncheon began, as it was still uncommon to have interracial gatherings in DC in 1912. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá learned he had left, he sent for Mr. Gregory immediately and gave him the seat of honor on his right.
  • Mr. James Ryan of the Esperanto Society of Washington spoke to our group in front of the German Marshall Fund Building. In 1912 this was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Parsons, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave many talks here including to the Theosophical Society and the Esperantists.