Montreal, June 23, 2020 – To create a just society begins with recognition of the fundamental truth that humanity is one. But it is not enough simply to believe this in our hearts. It creates the moral imperative to act, and to view all aspects of our personal, social, and institutional lives through the lens of justice. It implies a reordering of our society more profound than anything we have yet achieved. And it requires the participation of all humans of every race and background, for it is only through such inclusive participation that new moral and social directions can emerge.

One of the early Bahá’ís of Montreal, Rowland Estall, Gives us the following account of Mrs. Maxwell’s work among the African Canadians of Montreal :

The (Maxwell) home was full of people, the Bahá’ís and many members of the Negro United Church of which Reverend Charles Este was pastor. Mrs. Maxwell had addressed Reverend Este’s congregation the previous Sunday and had invited the congregation to visit her the following Thursday, or so. During the course of the evening, I was sitting beside Mrs Maxwell in Mr. Maxwell’s study and a maid came and said that Mrs. Maxwell was wanted at the front door. A policeman had arrived in response to a complaint from a next-door neighbour that there was some disturbance in the neighbourhood.  Mrs. Maxwell said that she was simply entertaining guests and invited the policeman to see for himself. Somewhat embarrassed and obviously taken aback by Mrs. Maxwell’s charm and graciousness in inviting him to come in, he demurred and departed. This was one incident which demonstrates the hostility of some of the neighbours in that exclusive residential district at the time and to Mrs. Maxwell’s unconcern for the prejudices of her neighbours.

This event might have been a part of a joint activity with the work of International Amity Committee which had a successful local meeting in Montreal in 1929-30.

The visit to Montreal of Louis Gregory, the most prominent African American Bahá’í, during the summer of 1924, had no doubt reinforced May Maxwell’s own work in race relations. By 1927 the Bahá’í Community of North America had reached a turning point in improving its racial climate. When the 19th National Convention of the North American Bahá’í Community was held in Montreal in April, race “was discussed at length and with unprecedented frankness”. Days before the National Convention, the National Spiritual Assembly had organized a “World Unity Conference” on 24-28 April 1927 and the Montreal Bahá’ís also held a Race Amity Meeting on 2-4 March 1930.

The following is an eye-witnessed account of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá meeting with some youths in New-York, in 1912:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá was standing at the door and He greeted each boy as he came in; sometimes with a handclasp, sometimes with an arm around a shoulder, but always with such smiles and laughter it almost seemed that He was a boy with them. Certainly there was no suggestion of stiffness on their part, or awkwardness in their unaccustomed surroundings. Among the last to enter the room was a colored lad of about thirteen years. He was quite dark and, being the only boy of his race among them, he evidently feared that he might not be welcome. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saw him His face lighted up with a heavenly smile. He raised His hand with a gesture of princely welcome and exclaimed in a loud voice so that none could fail to hear; that here was a black rose.

The room fell into instant silence. The black face became illumined with a happiness and love hardly of this world. The other boys looked at him with new eyes. I venture to say that he had been called a black-many things, but never before a black rose.

This significant incident had given to the whole occasion a new complexion. The atmosphere of the room seemed now charged with subtle vibrations felt by every soul. The boys, while losing nothing of their ease and simplicity, were graver and more intent upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and I caught them glancing again and again at the colored boy with very thoughtful eyes. To the few of the friends in the room the scene brought visions of a new world in which every soul would be recognized and treated as a child of God. I thought: What would happen to New York if these boys could carry away such a keen remembrance of this experience that throughout their lives, whenever they encountered any representatives of the many races and colors to be found in that great city, they would think of them and treat them as “different colored flowers in the Garden of God.” The freedom from just this one prejudice in the minds and hearts of this score or more of souls would unquestionably bring happiness and freedom from rancor to thousands of hearts. How simple and easy to be kind, I thought, and how hardly we learn.

When His visitors had arrived, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had sent out for some candy and now it appeared, a great five- pound box of expensive mixed chocolates. It was unwrapped and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked with it around the circle of boys, dipping His hand into the box and placing a large handful in the hands of each, with a word and smile for everyone. He then returned to the table at which He had been sitting, and laying down the box, which now had only a few pieces in it, He picked from it a long chocolate nougat; it was very black. He looked at it a moment and then around at the group of boys who were watching Him intently and expectantly. Without a word He walked across the room to where the colored boy was sitting, and, still without speaking, but with a humorously piercing glance that swept the group, laid the chocolate against the black cheek. His face was radiant as He laid His arm around the shoulder of the boy and that radiance seemed to fill the room. No words were necessary to convey His meaning, and there could be no doubt that all the boys caught it.

You see, He seemed to say, that he is not only a black flower, but also a black sweet. You eat black chocolates and find them good: perhaps you would find this black brother of yours good also if you once taste his sweetness.

Again that awed hush fell upon the room. Again the boys all looked with real wonder at the colored boy as if they had never seen him before, which indeed was true. And as for the boy himself, upon whom all eyes were now fixed, he seemed perfectly unconscious of all but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Upon Him his eyes were fastened with an adoring, blissful look such as I had never seen upon any face. For the moment he was transformed. The reality of his being had been brought to the surface and the angel he really was revealed.

Photos : 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í with children, New York, 1912

Louis Gregory and his British Wife Louisa Mathew Gregory

Références : 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í – Mahmud’s Diary

W.C. van den Hoonaard,  The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada

Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom


Bahá'í Center


177, av des Pins E
Montréal, QC H2W 1N9
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 514-849-0753

Click here for map and hours



Montreal Shrine


1548, av des Pins O, Montreal
Phone: 514-568-2104

Click here for map and hours


S5 Box