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The Interracial “Baha'i Movement” and the Black Intelligentsia: The Case of W. E. B. Du Bois


Christopher Buck is an Independent Scholar, Part-Time Professor at Pennsylvania State University, and a Full-Time Attorney in Pittsburgh, U.S.A.


This article surveys W. E. B. Du Bois's encounters with the Baha'i religion, from 1910 to 1953. Sections one and two focus on Du Bois and ‘Abdu'l-Baha (1844–1921), while section three treats Du Bois's indirect connection to the New York Baha'i community through Nina Du Bois's documented affiliation with that group. Section four chronicles the 1937 Nashville incident involving reportedly segregated Baha'i meetings, and section five looks at Du Bois's later Baha'i contacts, completing the trajectory. Originally attracted to Baha'i teachings on interracial unity — with Du Bois prominently featuring ‘Abdu'l-Baha with full-page photograph in Du Bois's “Men of the Month” column — Du Bois later waxed indignant, openly criticizing the Baha'i movement in a Pittsburgh Courier editorial. Drawing on press reports, Baha'i records, and archival correspondence between members of the Baha'i community and Du Bois, primary sources establish that Du Bois's righteous indignation was based on misinformation.