Bahá’í perspectives on reparations: Reflections from the ABS Africana Studies Working Group

The Universal House Justice has stated that the Bahá’í community needs to be able to “offer, as a unified body, its considered perspective…on issues that weigh on the minds and spirits of those with whom it interacts.” Furthermore, the House of Justice explains that the Bahá’í community will increasingly “be called upon to explicate the principles it advocates, and to demonstrate their applicability to the issues facing humanity.” Certainly, reparations is among those weighty issues to which Bahá’í principles can be productively applied. With the growing prominence of calls for contemporary reparations for harms originating in historical contexts, many individuals, communities, and institutions are seeking a shared understanding of prominent themes in the discourse concerning reparations. Hoping to advance its understanding of these themes, the ABS Africana Studies working group has taken up a collaborative process of learning focused on assessing reparations discourse in light of Bahá’í principles. In this presentation, three collaborators share thoughts on the working group’s ongoing endeavor to develop considered Bahá’í perspectives on reparations.

Deepening questions

  • In the scope of envisioning the society transforming power of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation, what impacts of chattel slavery must be repaired to pave the way for true unity?
  • In contributing to the American discourse on reparations, which aspects of the Baha'i framework for action are most consequential?
  • How might reflection on reparations' discourse allow us, working alongside reparations' advocates, to think about what the structures of a future society should be like, and how we go about building them?
  • How can a Bahá’í conceptual framework contribute to reimagining "justice" within the contexts of reparations discourse and social action?

  • Race
  • Racial Justice

  • Derik Smith

    Derik Smith is a professor in the Department of Literature at Claremont McKenna College; he is currently chair of the Intercollegiate Department of Africana Studies at the Claremont Colleges. His work is anchored in the analysis of American culture and, particularly, African American literary culture. He is the author of many articles, and the book, Robert Hayden In Verse: New Histories of African American Poetry and the Black Arts Era.

  • June Manning Thomas

    June Manning Thomas, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Michigan, has written about race relations and social justice issues related to urban planning in U.S. cities such as Detroit. Examples: J. M. Thomas and Marsha Ritzdorf, eds., Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows (Sage Press, 1996), and Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit (Wayne State UP, 1997, 2013), winner of the 1999 Paul Davidoff Award (Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning). She has also co-edited The City after Abandonment (U. of Pennsylvania P 2013) and Mapping Detroit: Evolving Land Use Patterns and Connections (Wayne State UP, 2015), and she has assisted many of Michigan’s distressed urban communities through outreach classes offering planning services to neighborhoods. Her book Planning Progress: Lessons from Shoghi Effendi (Bahá’í Studies Publications, 1997) studied the planning strategies used by a global leader of the Bahá’í Faith as he spearheaded the prosecution of global development plans. Her book, Struggling to Learn: An Intimate History of School Desegregation in South Carolina (U of South Carolina P, 2022), concerns racial oppression and black community constructive resilience during the civil rights era.

  • Guy Emerson Mount

    Guy Emerson Mount is an Assistant Professor of African American History at Wake Forest College and an Associate Editor at Black Perspectives. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago where he earned his PhD in 2018 while co-founding the Reparations at UChicago Working Group (RAUC)—a scholar/activist collective that uncovered the University of Chicago's historical ties to slavery and is organizing alongside grass-roots activists on the South Side of Chicago for reparations. His work focuses on the afterlives of slavery, Black internationalism, American empire, and the history of reparative justice. His upcoming book, From Slavery to Empire: Reconstruction in the Black Pacific, follows the lives of everyday Black workers in Hawai’i and the Philippines as they confronted the global expansion of American racial capitalism during the professed unwinding of American state-sponsored slavery.


46th Annual Conference


The views expressed in this recording are those of the presenters and do not necessarily represent the views of the Association for Baha'i Studies, nor the authoritative explications of Bahá’í writings.