This talk offers a synopsis of the history of racism and attempts at racial justice during the mid-twentieth century in one U.S. state, South Carolina. It begins by reviewing Bahá’í perspectives about racism and racial equality as expressed during that era by Shoghi Effendi. It will then describe the diversion between these concepts and racial inequity in the U.S. South at that time. Reasons for this situation summarized here include the cumulative effects of racial suppression, such as in public education for Black children and racial segregation in public accommodations. It will note how these conditions spurred Black community activism, but with limitations; these conditions also laid the groundwork for Black South Carolinians to enter the Bahá’í Faith in the 1970s. The talk will end by suggesting implications for today.
- What are essential elements of racism, as described by Shoghi Effendi in his writings about North America during that era, 1938-57?
- What was the status of racial segregation in mid-20th century South Carolina?
- What were the effects of racial discrimination in public education and in public accommodation?
- How did Black residents respond to such oppression?
- How did the Bahá’í Faith respond to these conditions during that era?
- What are the implications for today?
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.
The views expressed in this recording are those of the presenter and do not necessarily represent the views of the Association for Baha'i Studies, nor the authoritative explications of Bahá’í writings.