Historical overview, part 1:
It is worthwhile to revisit the historical backdrop of Shoghi Effendi’s address. In 1939, the United States of America was deeply divided along racial lines, even in the Northern and Western states
The website “Remembering Jim Crow” describes the post-Civil War to pre-Civil Rights era as “bitter times”: The legally-mandated segregation laws (also known as “Jim Crow”) dominated Southern life from approximately 1890 until well into the 1960s. Five generations of African Americans endured that system. Present day race relations in the United States continue to be affected by this history. The Jim Crow system emerged towards the end of the historical period called Reconstruction, during which Congress had enacted laws designed to punish and bring social and economic order to the South, and to bring the secessionist states back into the Union. Southern whites felt profoundly threatened by these measures and the perceived “advantages” granted to the newly freed slaves. In reaction, white-controlled state legislatures passed laws designed to rob blacks of their civil rights and prevent them from mingling with their “betters” in public places.
Segregation laws were not limited to Southern states. The California State Legislature, in a report to the federal government (apparently a response to the inquiries that the newly incorporated state of California would comply with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 ) issued the following statements as a part of AB 395, also known as the “Negro Exclusion Bill”:
The position of the free negro in this state is a peculiar one, he is not the equal of the white man, socially or politically, he can not testify in our courts, or exercise the right of suffrage, hence in our judgement (sic) it is not good policy, on our part, to encourage the immigrations, of any class of persons incapable of appreciating and enjoying, to the fullest extent our institutions.
The negro is by nature indolent and in a state of freedom becomes a ready prey to vice, particularly in our large cities. We deem it unnecessary to refer to the conditions of the free Negro, in portions of our union(?), as a proof of the evil of harboring them here in our midst.
The presence of the free negro here is a constant source of disquiet, for we are sorry to say, that there is not wanting, a clan of white men, in our state: whom a false philantrophy (sic) leads to fasten the ignorant hide of the free negro, so that he becomes insolent and defiant and if in sufficient numbers would become dangerous, as evidenced by recent occurrences in one of our cities.
That there are here in California many worthy and industrious free negroes, your Committee do not deny, in fact we know many who for industry sobriety and good conduct, would be a good example to many of our white citizens, but these are exceptionable instances
The Bill does not interfere with those free negroes, already here, but simply requires them to procure a certificate of Registry, from the County Recorder in the County of their residence, to show that they were residents of this state prior to the 1st day of October 1858. This portion of the Bill is necessary to render it Effectual.
Believing therefore that the further immigration of free negroes and Mulattoes into this state, is not desirable, we beg leave to report the Bill back to the Senate and recommend its passage without amendment.
All of which is respectfully submitted
of Committee on Federal Relations
C. E. Thom
“Negro Exclusion Bill,” 1858
California State Archives
Racial tensions and violence in the post Gold Rush era became so dire that a group of African Americans from San Francisco decided to relocate to Victoria, British Columbia from 1858-1861.
For more info: The Advent of Divine Justice The Bahá’ís of the United States
The San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society
African American Rights During the Gold Rush Archy Lee Case, 1858 Ships Passengers List