Pocahontas Pope was born into a Baptist family living in North Carolina. She was Indian/African American. She was married in the early 1880s to Pastor John W. Pope and later moved to Washington DC.
In 1906, Pauline Hannen introduced the Bahá’í faith to Pocahontas who became the first believer of her race (Indian/African American) to become a Bahá’í.
On November 6th at 3pm the Master went on a carriage ride with Mrs. Parsons and Mrs. Brown of California, and went to visit a “colored” woman who was ill, who may have been Mrs. Pocahontas Pope. Two days later, on November 8th, the Master had a visit with a “colored” clergyman. Mrs. Pocahontas Pope’s husband John W. Pope was a DC clergyman, and Hand of the Cause Mr. Louis George Gregory noted that he was a friend of the faith. While no record of whom visited has been found to this time, the Master and the Faith in Washington holds a great connection to Mrs. Pocahontas Pope, so a couple of visits would not have been surprising. Mrs. Pocahontas Pope became in 1906 the first member of the Bahá’í Faith of African Descent in Washington DC, and thereafter began hosting the first gatherings to teach city residents of African Descent in her home which grew into the first integrated African and European Descent Bahá’í Community in America. The Hannen’s began teaching her the Cause in their home on O Street as she worked as a Seamstress in their home.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote the following letter to her (six years prior):
“Render thanks to the Lord that among that race thou art the first believer, arisen to guide others. It is my hope that through the bounties and favours of the Abha Beauty thy countenance may be illumined, thy disposition pleasing, and thy fragrance diffused, that thine eyes may be seeing, thine ears attentive, thy tongue eloquent, thy heart filled with supreme glad-tidings, and thy soul refreshed by divine fragrances, so that thou mayest arise among that race and occupy thyself with the edification of the people, and become filled with light. Although the pupil of the eye is black, it is the source of light. Thou shalt likewise be. The disposition should be bright, not the appearance. Therefore, with supreme confidence and certitude, say: ‘O God! Make me a radiant light, a shining lamp, and a brilliant star, so that I may illumine the hearts with an effulgent ray from Thy Kingdom of Abha.’”
Pocahontas had many firesides in her home. In March 1910 the Washington DC Bahá’ís held integrated meetings and proudly announced this in the first issue of the new national journal, Bahá’í News.
Mr. Pope passed away on March 30, 1918. Relatives of Mr. Pope who comforted Mrs. Pocathontas Pope at the funeral include Mrs. Lizzie Pope and Rev. Cicero Pope of Raleigh, North Carolina and Dr. Manassas T. Pope, Shaw University medical graduate and North Carolina’s first licensed physician of African descent. Their mutual grandfather was Jonas Elias Pope (1827-1913), a carpenter who owned a significant amount of land, was a Quaker and came from a family liberated from enslavement since the late 1700s. Mr. Jonas Pope had seven children from 1832 to 1841. Dr. Pope is unique among only 7 men in Raleigh, being able to bypass the voter disenfranchisement of 1900 requiring that your grandfather voted (exluding all formerly enslaved peoples), but Dr. Pope could claim this past. He even ran for mayor of Raleigh in 1919. Their “Pope House” is now a Nationally registered historic site and is being transformed into a Museum in Raleigh.
Their “Pope House” is now a Nationally registered historic site and is being transformed into a Museum in Raleigh.
No information about children.
“Mrs. Pocahontas Pope” dcbahaitour.org
Art Design by Joe Paczkowski
Gravemarker photo courtesy of Mrs. Roya Bauman