A new documentary series with a fresh perspective on the racial question is airing on the PBS World Channel now. It is produced by the National Center for Race Amity and the Bahá’í Faith provided financial support for this series.
In a departure from the approach of other similar documentaries, this series focuses on the many instances of constructive amity that have occurred between whites and African Americans dating back to the era of slavery through present times. In addition to bringing a fresh and positive approach to the question, the series provides profound insight into well-documented historical facts that are often overlooked.
Background in Bahá’í history
The Bahá’í Faith has a long history of promoting race amity. The abolition of all forms of prejudice is a central tenet of the Bahá’í Faith, well-known to all Bahá’ís and upheld throughout the community. The Bahá’í Faith is very young; the founders lived during America’s Civil War Era. But in the late 1800’s the Faith was first mentioned in America and in the early 1900’s ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, son of the Founder, traveled to America. At a time when it was deemed socially unacceptable for African Americans to dine with whites, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá openly broke the tradition and insisted on having an African American Bahá’í, Louis Gregory, sit next to him at a formal reception luncheon. Through arrangements made by this same Louis Gregory, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave an address at Howard University, an historically black college. There he boldly asserted that:
There are no whites and blacks before God. All colors are one and that is the color of servitude to God. The heart is important… God does not look at colors; He looks at the hearts. …Doves are of many colors; nevertheless they live in utmost harmony… Now ponder this; animals, despite the fact that they lack reason and understanding do not make colors the cause of conflict. Why should man, who has reason, create conflict? This is wholly unworthy of him….
This was at a time when intermarriage between a white person and an African American was often considered so unthinkable that in some cases it led to murder. Undeterred by the stigma, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá boldly and openly encouraged such intermarriage and before his departure Louis Gregory married Luisa Matthews, a white British woman who had traveled to America on the Celtic, the same ship that had carried ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America.
The trend continued through subsequent decades and in the closing decades of the 20th Century the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States inaugurated a nationwide campaign intended to call the nation’s attention to the unresolved problem of racial prejudice in the United States.
Why you should watch this documentary
This documentary is so informative that everyone could learn something profoundly interesting and worthwhile from it. Furthermore it brings a surprisingly optimistic tone to a subject that would otherwise be depressing. It doesn’t claim to be a general overview of race relations in America; rather it focuses on a survey of so many profound instances of amity between African Americans and whites. Watch the trailer below:
To see when the documentary will air in your area go to https://worldchannel.org/ and click “Set Station” in the upper left hand corner. Then enter your zip code. You will be presented with one or more PBS worldchannel stations in your area and the schedule will follow.