No Jim Crow Church
The Origins of South Carolina's Bahá’í Community
"A pioneering study of how and why the Bahá’í Faith became the second largest religious community in South Carolina. Carefully researched, the story told here fills a significant gap in our knowledge of South Carolina's rich and diverse religious history."--Charles H. Lippy, coauthor of Religion in Contemporary America
The emergence of a cohesive interracial fellowship in Jim Crow-era South Carolina was unlikely and dangerous. However, members of the Bahá’í Faith in the Palmetto State rejected segregation, broke away from religious orthodoxy, and defied the odds, eventually becoming the state’s largest religious minority.
The religion, which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind, arrived in the United States from the Middle East at the end of the nineteenth century via urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest. Expatriate South Carolinians converted and when they returned home, they brought their newfound religion with them. Despite frequently being the targets of intimidation, and even violence, by neighbors, the Ku Klux Klan, law enforcement agencies, government officials, and conservative clergymen, the Bahá’ís remained resolute in their faith and their commitment to an interracial spiritual democracy. In the latter half of the twentieth century, their numbers continued to grow, from several hundred to over twenty thousand.
In No Jim Crow Church, Louis Venters traces the history of South Carolina’s Bahá’í community from its early origins through the civil rights era and presents an organizational, social, and intellectual history of the movement. He relates developments within the community to changes in society at large, with particular attention to race relations and the civil rights struggle. Venters argues that the Bahá’ís in South Carolina represented a significant, sustained, spiritually-based challenge to the ideology and structures of white male Protestant supremacy, while exploring how the emergence of the Bahá’í Faith in the Deep South played a role in the cultural and structural evolution of the religion.
Louis Venters is associate professor of history at Francis Marion University.
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Traces the history of the religion from its origins in Iran and the Middle East to its planting in South Carolina. . . . Recommended.
[Venters] shines when he covers the racial, social, and economic milieu of South Carolina at midcentury.
--Journal of Southern Religion
Remarkably thorough and clear in telling an important story otherwise unfamiliar to most American historians, so anyone interested in twentieth-century American history, especially in regards to race relations, would be well advised to read this book.
--American Historical Review
Filled with local color and detailed narrative.
--Journal of Southern History
This extraordinary book is possibly the best piece of history written about the American Baha’is to date. . . . For researchers and students wanting to know what claims the Baha’i Faith makes and what factors have influenced its growth, the book is a groundbreaking introduction.