In 2003, Baha'is opened the Louis G. Gregory Baha'i Museum in downtown Charleston to honor one of their most esteemed figures, a local descendent of slaves who championed the faith's core belief in equality.
Gregory was born in 1874 and raised in Charleston by his mother, Mary Elizabeth, the daughter of an enslaved African woman and a white Darlington plantation owner. Mary Elizabeth was 14 years old when she and her mother were freed after the Civil War, the museum's information says.
Gregory grew up among the first generation of southern African-Americans with a legal right to education. He attended the Avery Institute and Normal School, now the Avery Research Center. He then went to Fisk University and Howard University's School of Law.
He practiced in Washington, D.C., where he and such black leaders as W.E.B. DuBois grappled with the day's volatile issues of race. By then, Gregory's grandmother had survived the trauma of KKK members killing her husband outside of their home and nearly killing her, too.
As he struggled with questions of faith and racial equality, Gregory attended a Baha'i meeting in 1907 and was drawn to its teachings about the oneness of humanity. Five years later, he was so devoted that he was elected to the Baha'i national administrative body, and then was re-elected 15 times more after that.
He gave up his law practice to travel the country, including South Carolina, teaching the principles of "race amity" at colleges, churches and civic groups. In 1912, he also married a white Baha'i woman, Louisa Mathew, at a time when it was considered a crime in some parts of the country.
He is considered a founder of the Baha'i Faith in America. After his death in 1951, tributes included the Louis G. Gregory Institute in Hemingway and Radio Baha'i, the first Baha'i radio station in North America. It operates on the institute's grounds with the call letters WLGI on 90.9 FM.
The Louis G. Gregory Baha'i Museum in Charleston was dedicated in 2003 at 2 Desportes Court in Gregory's small, two-story boyhood home. With help from the Avery Research Center, it was refurbished to exhibit Gregory's personal items.
For more, call 723-6201 or go to www.louisgregory museum.org.
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