No Jim Crow Church:
The Origins of South Carolina's
My first book, the previously untold story of South Carolina’s first genuinely interracial religious community, was published in Fall 2015 by the University Press of Florida. It is the first full-length history of the Bahá’í Faith in the United States to be published by an academic press. It is now available in paperback for $27.95 directly from the Press or from online or in-person retailers.
No Jim Crow Church reconstructs the history of the Bahá’í Faith in South Carolina during the Jim Crow era, from first contacts in the 1890s to the late 1960s. A projected second volume will carry the story through the early twenty-first century. A companion book, a copiously illustrated introduction to the South Carolina Bahá’í movement, was published in 2019.
Andrew C. Smith, Carson-Newman University, Journal of Southern History, vol. 83, no. 1 (February 2017)
Stephen W. Angell, Earlham School of Religion, American Historical Review, vol. 121, no. 4 (October 2016)
Richard W. Thomas, Michigan State University, Journal of Bahá’í Studies, August 29, 2016
Robert H. Stockman, Indiana University, South Bend, Wilmette Institute blog, June 29, 2016
R. J. Vejnar, Emory & Henry College, CHOICE, vol. 53, no. 8 (April 2016)
Kevin Boland Johnson, Grambling State University, Journal of Southern Religion 18 (2016)
Paul Harvey, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Religion in American History blog, October 12, 2015
Web talk, Wilmette Institute, December 4, 2016
Interview, “Bahá’í Perspectives” radio show and podcast, WXOJ-LP 103.3 FM, Northampton, MA, April 3, 2016
“11 Books to Help Us Explore the Peace-Loving Bahá’í Faith,” Huffpost Religion, November 30, 2015
“A Balm to Their Souls,” Anderson (SC) Independent-Mail, November 6, 2015
“Bahá’í Faith is Second Most Prevalent Religion in South Carolina,” Florence (SC) Morning News, July 19, 2014
“The Runner-Up Religions of America,” Protojournalist blog, National Public Radio, June 22, 2014
“How a 19th-Century Persian Faith Became the Second-Most Common Religion in Our State,” Charleston (SC) City Paper, June 17, 2014
From the back cover:
“A richly detailed study of the rise of the Bahá’í Faith in South Carolina. There isn’t another study out there even remotely like this one.” --Paul Harvey, coauthor of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America
“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.