The Bahá'ís, members of a religion that originated in the 19th century, have had a presence in North Carolina state since before the 1920s and have developed communities in many of the counties and cities of the state.(1) From this population in the State one would expect it to arrive on the campuses of its universities. Indeed there is much to tell of the Bahá'í Faith starting at North Carolina universities in the "Triangle" area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill). They include a sometimes significant history of comments about the religion. All of the student newspapers show coverage in the 1960s or 1970s though "firsts" certainly come well before. Alas most of the presented collections of the newspapers have spotty coverage. Among all the sister institutions, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has far more coverage of the Bahá'í Faith so far identified. The Bahá'ís are mentioned one way or another over 200 times according to Optical Character Recognition (OCR) based searches of the available archive and current editions. Searching via OCR scans is not a fully accurate process but is representative. It remains to be seen how references to the religion will compare with other universities and colleges in the state and across the nation once more of the newspapers are available. A review of the smaller colleges also awaits - William Peace University (Peace Times), St. Augustine's University (The Pen and newer The Falcon), Meredith College (Meredith Herald), and Shaw University (Shaw University Bear) certainly among them.
A signal event was Winston Evans coming through in the Fall of 1962. Advertisements for his appearances have been found in most of the newspapers and may well eventually show up in all of them. He sure got around - he was active before in other places and over the rest of the decade inspiring another generation of researchers.(2) He died in January 1973.(3) He had been a banker and suffered badly in the 1929 stock market crash.(4) He began to search for religious consolation and first heard of the Bahá'í Faith in 1936 and joined the religion in 1937.
North Carolina University at Raleigh (NCState) Technician student newspaper has a selection online focused on special editions or special coverage from the 1920s to the 1990s but the pages have not been scanned for OCR so searching is problematic (just the titles or other keywords used.) However, seeking likely possibilities have turned up some "hits".(5) Certainly there are others.
Additionally, probably the most notable Bahá'í on NC State campus was Associate Dean of the School of Education at NCState, Dr. William Maxwell. In the 1970s he also served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States.(6) Maxwell went on to serve in other countries and colleges.(7)
The current editions of the online version of the Technician goes back to 2004(8) and mentions the religion a few times. There were a couple of mentions in 2006(9) and 2010.(10) In February 2014 the club presented the Education Under Fire documentary.(11)
North Carolina Central University's (NCCU) Campus Echo similarly has some online archives at from 1999-2009 but in this briefer spread of time hasn't mentioned the Bahá'ís(12) though an earlier collection does have a few mentions in the 1960s. There are a few mentions in 1961.(13) Bahá'í researcher Allan Ward, best known for his book 239 Days,(14) gave a talk in 1961 and donated books on the religion to the James E. Shepard Memorial Library.(15) Ward returned to campus in February 1962.(16) In 1964 there were several speakers invited to present to the club. First was John Freeman of the Duke parapsychology lab, followed by NCCU professors Sherwood Augur(17) and William Allison.(18) In March 1966 the Bahá'í Club from UNC at Greensboro's A. & T. College presented at NCCU's club meeting(19) names mentioned include: Evander Gilmer, Charles Bullock, Charmion Gordon students from A. & T. with faculty member Fereydoun Jalali.
Similarly Duke University's student newspaper The Duke Chronicle, available for 1959 to 1970, only has a few entries mentioning the religion. Many were in 1962(21) followed by a brief mention of a meeting discussing the religion in January 1966,(22) and then a meeting off campus at the home of Van Sombeek is mentioned in February 1969.(23)
There have also been a few mentions in the currently online edition's website from 1995 through 2012. In 1995 a couple were mentioned. In October 1995 engineering sophomore Kevin Ferdowsian and Trinity senior Ronda Fowler represented the Baha'is at a panel discussion of religions on campus.(24) Then in November the Catholic Student Center, Duke Hillel and the Duke Baha'i Club co-sponsored "Joining Hands For Peace" in memory of Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.(25) A brief mention in 2009,(26) was followed by another brief comment in 2011.(27) In 2012 well known Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi addressed a Duke audience for a Crown Lecture in Ethics— sponsored by the Sanford School and the Duke University Union - and she mentioned the Baha'is "constantly persecuted" in Iran.(28)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ("UNC") student newspaper ''The Daily Tar Heel'' had mention of the scattered meetings of Bahá'ís on campus before the 1960s and from the 1970s onward mostly continuous. The collection, 1900 through 1992, has been made available from its Library through Newspapers.com and, though a commercial venture with means to seek buying a subscription, it does provide a relatively effective search engine. Editions of ''The Daily Tar Heel'' from 2000 are online at its main website.
The first Bahá'í to live in North Carolina(1) is also the first person responsible for a mention of the religion at UNC.(29) Stanwood Cobb made a presentation mentioning the religion (as well as in defense of Islam and Islamic civilization) in 1934 on UNC campus and it was noted by The Daily Tar Heel. He was the guest of Ernest Groves and was on a trip across several southern states promoting the religion.(30) It would be another fifteen years before The Daily Tar Heel recorded another mention of the religion - in January 1949 when a series of talks were initiated.(31) Mildred Danforth is mentioned.(32) Then Alice Dudley talks at a meeting of the group late in February..(33) Alice passed in 2007 aged 105. There is a gap in activity (and coverage of ''The Daily Tar Heel'') until 1954(34) when Edgar Olson seems to have held meetings starting in February.(35) Is this the same Edgar Olson that is married and in Guam by May 1954? See Spiritual legacy now paying dividends, and Marianas Bahá'í Community. Both Edgars came from Delaware! Sounds pretty likely!
Note a couple things - first, all these "first" meetings were in the same building - Gerrard Hall, and second, a pattern of activity dominantly in the spring semester.
Other Bahá'ís mentioned include: Walter R. Wootten, a political science major, was at the February 1954 meetings,(36) and James F. Ginnent in April.(37) Then there is another gap in the Bahá'í voice on campus.(34) But there is another thing to note - the first mention was just that - a singular mention. The next was a short series of meetings for a few months. Then a longer series of meetings but circumscribed across still less than one year. Also the length of the gap in activity is getting shorter - 15 years, then 5 years…. The patterns extends next.
Following the lapse in the early and mid 1960s there is a decade of activity from January 1969 through January 1979.(34) Sometimes there is an ebb in the Fall semesters but always a surge in the Spring. Following a brief couple mentions in April 1970 there is a showing of a film A New Wind(38) then in the Fall a series of talks begins.(34) On the heels of this more prolonged wave of meetings two campus commentators mentioned the religion in February 1971. They were kind of dismissing comments about how the religion wasn't attracting much attention - however one could observe that the presence of the Faith on campus had never before been commented on by observers of campus culture. They said:
"…. The impact of these groups on campus is mixed. Only a few students have responded
to the Baha'i Club, despite three years of effort by senior Mack Ezzell…"(39)
"…Eastern religions are growing in popularity, observers note, yet not only have eastern
religion movements - such as the followers of the Baha'i and Krishna - failed to capture
widespread campus interest, Dr. Shutz of the religion department noted an unusual "strain"
of revived interest in orthodox Christianity…"(40)
In fact following this the pace of meetings doubles starting in the Fall of 1971- this time with one meeting on campus and another off campus at the home of some of the Bahá'í students.(34) One of the major presentations was ''It's just the Beginning'' which gets a double showing in December.(41) You can see this film on Youtube. And then the well known music group Seals and Crofts gave a concert and a talk on the religion.(42) The doubled pace of meetings continues all the way through that April.(34)
The progress in meetings leads in March 1975 to the first time a week of events was arranged by the Bahá'ís.(43) The week included a viewing of It's just Beginning again and a panel discussion sponsored by the Bahá'ís: "Religion: Does it Unite or Divide" with faculty and religious leaders across several religions. Dr. Jane Faily represented the Bahá'í Faith. Jane went on to a long life as a clinical psychologist and her later talks made it to Youtube. Then there was another talk, this time by Associate Dean of the School of Education at NCState, Dr. William Maxwell (see above.)
So from January 1969, somewhat emphasizing the Spring months but not infrequently having some activity in the Fall months, until January 1979, there is modestly continuous activity of sometimes double weekly meetings with the occasional lapse.
After another lapse, only three years this time, the Bahá'ís begin activity in October 1982.(34) From then this period of activity would last roughly until November 1991 and include new levels of engagement between the Bahá'ís and the UNC community it had not seen before. It begins modestly with a few talks and a new year potluck party. In 1983 the first major event was a showing of a film in April of a meeting at the US House of Representatives on what is going on in Iran(45) since the Iranian Revolution which included a new wave of persecutions that some called a slow genocide. Then Dwight Allen gave a talk on campus(46) while he was between rounds of service in governmental reforms in a couple African countries. In Lesotho he served as Founding Chief Technical Advisor for the National Teacher Training College (1974–76). In Botswana he served as Technical Advisor to the Molepolole College of Education (1986–89).
Following this rise in coverage of the persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran and the overall rise in activity of the club, for the first time, the Bahá'ís on campus are invited to a campus-wide action forum in November of 1988 - the "Human Rights Week at UNC" which was managed by the Campus Y organization.(47) The Bahá'í presentations were named "Mona: The Persecution of Baha'is in Iran" and "Through the Eyes of Youth", each on Tuesday ''and'' Wednesday.
The next Fall semester, 1989, and Spring 1990, the Bahá'ís initiated another series of talks including invited speakers. Among them are Bahiyyih Nakhjavani in February(48) and Sarah Pereira, grandchild of slaves and former member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States,(1) on race harmony on March 21st.(49) Enough interest had grown that simultaneous to the story on Pereira's talk a broad profile of the Faith with a picture - the largest coverage to date - was published entitled "Baha'i Faith followers discuss peace through unity".(50)
The talk by Pereira and piece profiling the religion got notice though - a letter to the editor was published two days later, March 23rd.(51) It heavily criticized the Bahá'ís for appearing to unify with Jesus Christ and was by far the largest non-Bahá'í comments on the religion in the entire history of the religion at UNC. Various responses were printed a week later, April 2nd, covering about 1/3rd of the page. The first was by Baha'is(52) responding by pointing out systematic similarities in the religions and the failures of society to live up to them as well as some specific Bible verses for this view and invites a discussion at their next meeting at the Black Cultural Center.
The archive available through Newspapers.com ends in 1992 whereas the activity on the main website picks up in 2000.
When the coverage does pick up it is unclear if The Daily Tar Heel is publishing any meeting notices of any club - perhaps the internet took that over elsewhere. Be that as it may, even without meeting notices the religion still got mentioned in a number of articles. The main difference in the coverage is that the Bahá'ís are mainly mentioned in the context of campus issues rather than focused on presentations by Bahá'ís.(34) On the other hand the new coverage often mis-spells the religion more often than in the past. But the Bahá'ís are now often a ''part'' of the campus conversation, though sometimes a period of time can go by without mention. Beginning as soon as coverage is accessible in 2000 Bahá'ís are commenting on events of significance to matters of race,(53) interfaith activities,(54) and the question of funding of campus religious clubs.(55)
A story in 2002 focused on the Bahá'í club because of a series of events it sponsored "…spawned from UNC's summer reading assignment, "Approaching the Qur'an"…"(56) which had spawned attention and controversy across the state and nation. See Yacovelli v. Moeser. One should recall the very first talk on campus, above, by a Bahá'í was partly highlighting the marvels of civilization that happened under Islam. The next year the campus administration considered rescinding religious clubs including the Baha'is, though that did not come to pass.(57) Bahá'ís continued activity invited to "…the first Chapel Hill Peace Day."(58)
In 2006 a difference in habits of Bahá'ís was profiled(59) and Julian Bach's conversion was noted.(60) Faculty member and Bahá'í Mark Perry presented updated materials and references to the situation in Iran in 2010 with a play based on the story of Mona(61) and the club organized an updated presentation with the Education under fire campaign in 2012.(62) See Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education.
* Off to College!, by Dale E. Lehman, Appeared: 08/26/2000
* Teaching the Baha’i Faith on College Campuses: Part One, personal blog, 13 December 2009
2. *Guardian's reply to Convention Message, Baha'i News, June 1954, p. 21
* Davison Baha'i school announces program for "Homecoming" over Labor Day Weekend, US Supplement to the Baha'i News, No. 18, August 1959, p. 1
* Winston Evans opens talks on Baha'i Faith, The Nashau Telegraph, (Nashau New Hampshire), Jul 19, 1962, p. 2
* Holland Baha'i community to present Winston Evans, Hope College Anchor, (Holland Michigan), May 7, 1965, p. 5 (see also p. 3)
* Winstan Evans Baha'i Speaker, The Amarillo Globe-Times(Amarillo, Texas), 1 April 1966 • Page 27
* Guest Lecturer slated at Tech, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal(Lubbock, Texas), 30 November 1966 • Page 14
* Baha'i teacher will speak in Geneva area, The Geneva Times, (Geneva New York), November 19, 1969, p. 5
* Speaker to launch Kokomo Baha'i Week, The Kokomo Tribune, (Kokomo, Indiana), 10 April 1970 • Page 21
* Second coming of Christ has already occured, claims Baha'i Faith Lecturer, by Judy Weidman, The Kokomo Tribune, (Kokomo, Indiana), 20 April 1970 • Page 5
* The Election Trail, by Wendi Momen, Wendi Wanders Blog, May 1st, 2008
* Winston Evans on a Russian response …, World Order, Winter 1972-1973, Vol 7, No. 2
* Questions from Christians: About Baha'u'llah and the Baha'I Faith, by Thom Thompson, 30 May 2002, published by Xlibris Corporation, isbn=978-1-4628-4174-5, p. 404
* Vanderbilt Boys: And What about the Girl?, by Thom Thompson, 10 October 2012, published by QFX Book Supply isbn=978-0-9859971-0-6
* The Challenge of Baha'u'llah: Does God Still Speak to Humanity Today? by Gary L. Matthews, 2005, published by Baha'i Publishing Trust, isbn=978-1-931847-16-2, p. 6
(3) Winston Gill Evans, (obit), The Sewanee News, Sewanee: The University of the South, (Sewanee Tennessee ), March 1973, p. 14
(5) * Baha'u'llah…, Technician Vol. 47 No. 4 [Vol. 43 No. 4], September 24, 1962, p. 3
* Christ and Baha'u'llah…, Technician Vol. 47 No. 6 [Vol. 43 No. 6], September 27, 1962, p. 4
(6) Baha'is set goal: stronger families, The Milwaukee Sentinel, (Milwaukee Wisconsin), Feb 28, 1976, p.5
(7) William Maxwell - Local Baha'i group sets keynote talk, The Victoria Advocate (Victoria Texas), Jun 20, 1985, p.7
(8) Technician advanced search date limit
(9) * Facts and Figures about Baha'i Club, August 29, 2006
* Peace out on Thursday - Student groups promote International Day of Peace, September 19, 2006
(10) * Ask Avani, by Avani Patel, April 28, 2010
* University to look at religious observances' policy - A new state law is prompting the University to review its diversity policy, by Elise Heglar, August 23, 2010
(11) Bahá’í student group showcases film about educational prejudice, by Brittany Bynum, February 17, 2014
(12) Google search of 1999-2009 archives of ''Campus Echo''
(13) * Letters…, by J. K. Norris, Campus Echo, Durham, N.C., January 31, 1961, p. 3
* Letters…, by Allan L. Ward, Campus Echo, Durham, N.C., April 28, 1961, p.2
(15) Religious emphasis speaker donates eight books on Baha'i World Faith, Campus Echo, Durham, N.C.: April 28, 1961, p. 7
(16) Religious emphasis…(continued from page1), Campus Echo, Durham, N.C.: February 28, 1962, p. 8
(17) Duke researchist speaks to club, Campus Echo, Durham, N.C.: November 30, 1964, p. 1
(18) Duke researchist (continued from page 1), Campus Echo, Durham, N.C.: November 30, 1964, p. 4
(19) A. & T. Baha'i Club renders discussion, Campus Echo, Durham, N.C.: March 28, 1966, p. 1
(20) Campus Echo keyword search 2001 to 2014
(21) * Baha'u'lllah … (advertisement), The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 4, September 25, 1962, p. 3
* Baha'u'llah and the Christians…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 4, September 25, 1962, p. 7
* Baha'u'llah…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 5, September 28, 1962, p. 5
* Baha'u'llah…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 5, September 28, 1962, p.8
* Christ's promise fulfilled, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 6, October 2, 1962, p. 3
* Baha'u'llah…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 6, October 2, 1962, p. 5
* Baha'u'llah…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 7, October 5, 1962, p. 3
* Baha'u'llah…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 7, October 5, 1962, p. 7
* Baha'u'llah…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 58, no. 8, October 9, 1962, p. 7
(22) …News brief…, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 61, no. 26, January 5, 1966, p. 1
(23) Campus Calendar, The Duke Chronicle, vol. 64, no. 89, February 22, 1969, p. 2
(24) Students present, discuss myriad religious perspectives, by Amanda Stolz, The Duke Chronicle, October 25, 1995
(25) Professors: Students not challenged, Staff Reports, The Duke Chronicle, November 15, 1995
(26) Ambassador, professor dispute U. S. fallacies on Israel, by Carmen Augustine, The Duke Chronicle, November 16, 2009
(27) A scholar and a dissident, by Connor Southard, The Duke Chronicle, December 2, 2011
(28) Ebadi addresses US-Iran relations, by Mike Shammas, The Duke Chronicle, April 17, 2012
(29) Stanwood Cobb to speak here, ''The Daily Tar Heel'', (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 3 April 1934, p. 1
(30) Most great reconstruction: The Baha'i faith in Jim Crow South Carolina, 1898-1965, by Venters, Louis E., III, PhD Thesis published by Colleges of Arts and Sciences University of South Carolina 2010, ISBN = 978-1-243-74175-2, UMI Number: 3402846, pp. 186-190
(31) BAHA'I FAITH. First of a series…, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 23 January 1949, p. 1
(32) Baha'i Talk is cancelled, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 11 February 1949, p. 4
(33) Dudley to talk on Baha'i Faith, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 26 February 1949, p. 1
(34) The Bahá'í Faith at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bahaikepedia.org
(35) Baha'i Faith meeting, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 4 February 1954, p. 4
(36) * Baha'i Faith promoted by student in Gerrard by Dick Creed, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 6 February 1954, p. 1
* Bahá'í in the News, Issue 279, May 1954, p. 6, sec paragraph from bottom
* An invitation, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)7 February 1954, p. 2
(37) Baha'i religion in discussion tonight in GM, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)28 April 1954, p. 4
(38) * THE BAHA'I Faith will show…, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 10 April 1970, p. 3
* This film was produced by Modern Talking Pictures Services Inc - Baha'i films available from Modern Talking Pictures Inc., National Baha'i Review, No. 37, January 1971, p. 2. Note the company produced films from the 1930s through 1990 - see OCLC WorldCat listing
(39) Christians, mystics spreading good news, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 26 February 1971, p. 3
(40) Soul food: Pessimism turns students to religion, by Ken Ripley, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)27 February 1971, p. 4
(41) * Baha'i film "It's just the Beginning"…, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 2 December 1971, p. 3
* Baha'i film "It's just the Beginning…, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 6 December 1971, p. 4
(42) Seals and Crofts will talk…, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 8 December 1971, p. 2
(43) Baha'is plan unity week, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 25 March 1975 , p. 2
(44) Baha'i faith: universal, lasting peace, by Greg Suhm, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 7 April 1975, p. 6
(45) FiIm on persecution of Baha'is runs today, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 15 April 1983, p. 2
(46) Dr. Dwight W. Allen, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 10 November 1983, p. 4
(47) * Human Rights Week, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 14 November 1988, p. 9
* Human Rights Week Schedule, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 15 November 1988, p. 5
* Human Rights Week Schedule, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 16 November 1988, p. 4
(48) Literature, peace and women: ideas of a Baha'i author, by Noah Bartolucci, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 9 February 1990, p. 4
(49) Sarah Pereira to conclude Baha'i lecture, by Noah Bartolucci, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 21 March 1990, p. 5
(50) Baha'i Faith followers discuss peace through unity, by Noah Bartolucci, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 21 March 1990, p. 5
(51) Baha'i beliefs can't coexist with Christ, by Christy Tell, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 23 March 1990, p. 12
(52) Letters to the editor…, by Johanna Merrit, Ladan Atai, and David Minton, The Daily Tar Heel, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 2 April 1990, p. 9
(53) Episcopal Bishop Sheds Light on Race Issues, by Staff Editor, Daily Tar Heel, 10/19/00
(54) * Dinner Helps Unite Students of All Faiths, by Staff Editor, Daily Tar Heel, 10/24/00
* A Community of Choices, by Carolyn Pearce, Daily Tar Heel, 04/10/01
(55) Religion Makes Funding Tougher, by Lynne Shallcross, Daily Tar Heel, 11/14/02
(56) Bahai Students Aim to Educate, by Brian Hudson, Daily Tar Heel, 11/14/02
(57) Campus Dodges Charter Lawsuit, by Lizzie Stewart, Daily Tar Heel, 01/07/03
(58) Peace events unite activists, by Michael Todd, Daily Tar Heel, 04/25/05
(59) Some students give alcohol cold shoulder, by Katie Hoffmann, Daily Tar Heel, 08/25/06
(60) Spiritual investigation, by Erin Wiltgen, Daily Tar Heel, 11/10/06
(61) 'Mona' play recounts story of faith, by Katy Doll, Daily Tar Heel, 01/29/10
(62) Education Under Fire campaign advocates for rights of Baha'i in Iran, by Jenna Jordan, Daily Tar Heel, 03/26/12
This article emphasizes the stories published in the newspapers to convey a sense of reliability and fairness. It does not officially represent a Bahá'í view. A more connected sense of the history can be achieved by asking Bahá'ís for their stories but as they have not been published that is for individuals to pursue. There were certainly more Bahá'ís on the campuses than get mentioned in the newspapers. As such Bahá'ís will know of many more events but finding references sometimes limits what can be mentioned.
Also a note on accents. The official spelling of many Bahá'í words uses accents and that has been followed in the article except in quotes if absent or as used in references. Dropping the accents it typical in informal or semi-formal writing. Additionally as the internet urls don't like it often many websites will drop the accents while others will keep them. So don't be too concerned about accent marks.