Concern for human dignity and the abolition of prejudice prompted Helen Harris to investigate the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. She became a member of that faith in 1952, worked tirelessly to support its teachings, and served as secretary of the local Baha’i administrative body in Washington, DC for several years.
Helen Webb Harris
Helen Webb Harris was an educator, sports enthusiast, a person of intense energy, many creative interests, and varied pursuits. Her dignity, charm and abilities influenced persons in many walks of life. Former students acknowledge her as a foremost educator and deeply cherish their memories of her.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Helen Harris gives a presentation at the dedication of the Washington, DC Baha’i Center (1967). Background (L/R): Harvey Weiner, from the Baha’i community of Alexandria,Virginia; Dr. Sarah Martin Pereira and Victor Porlier, both members of the Washington, DC Baha’i community, and both then served on its Local Spiritual Assembly.
Residence: Crestwood Apartments, A432
Helen Harris Previous Residence
During 1965, Terry Randolph had occasion to visit Helen Harris in her home at 79 R St., NW, 2001, and much later after she moved to the new location at 3900 16th St NW, 20011. She and her husband for many years held residence near Howard University, in the Shaw neighborhood, an area of DC then still populated mostly by an urban black middle and upper class elite, but at that time (1967) in noticeable decline. It’s also where early on (pre-1960s) it was an area in which several members of the Baha’i community resided, and became a focal point of Baha’i activity prior to the Charles Mason Remey controversy.
Baha'i Faith in the Nations Capital
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Note: Dean Evans E. Crawford always facilitated Baha’i requests to host various activities at Rankin Chapel due primarily to the faith’s long-standing history with Howard University. The son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Abdu’l-Baha’i, in 1912 spoke to an assemblage in that same Chapel, some believers in the early 1900s were firmly established as educators at that institution of learning, others had graduated with distinction, and many persons of note during that period had developed an affinity for the Baha’i Faith due primarily to its teachings on the oneness of humanity and the open affirmation of its members supporting ‘Race Amity’.
Recreational sports were also of great interest, and she became a foundering member of the Wake Robin Golf Club, the first such club for black women in the Washington, DC area, and reigned as a major winner of golf trophies. Helen is seen in the background image above, left side, first lady in the middle row.
Wake-Robin Golf Club
Helen Webb Harris founded the Wake-Robin Golf Club in 1937; it is the United States’s oldest registered African-American women’s golf club. The first meeting of the club was held at her house with thirteen women attending. The club was named after the Wake-Robin wildflower. Harris was the club’s first president, and under her leadership the club joined the United Golf Association and the Eastern Golf Association. In 1938 the club drafted and sent a petition to Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes seeking to desegregate the public courses of the District of Columbia. In response Ickes approved the construction of a nine-hole golf course on the site of an abandoned trash dump, called Langston Golf Course, which opened in 1939. The Wake-Robin Golf Club and the Royal Golf Club continued to pressure Secretary Ickes, and he issued an order in 1941 opening public courses to all. In 1947 Harris was elected as the first female president of the Eastern Golf Association; she was president for two terms. The Wake-Robin Golf Club was part of the movement to force the Professional Golfers Association to drop its “White-only” rule for eligibility, which it did in 1961.
- “African American Golfer’s Digest – News, Information & Activities in the ‘Soulful’ World of Golf”.
- “The Wake Robin Golf Club founded | African American Registry”. Aaregistry.org. 1936-08-06. Retrieved 2015-03-20.
- Marvin P. Dawkins; Graham Charles Kinloch (1 January 2000). African American Golfers During the Jim Crow Era. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 32–. ISBN 978-0-275-95940-1.
- “The African American Experience”. Testaae.greenwood.com. Retrieved 2015-03-20.
- M. Mikell Johnson Ph. D. (2010). Heroines of African American Golf. Trafford Publishing. pp. 1913–. ISBN 978-1-4269-3419-3.
Publication: The African American Woman Golfer: Her Legacy. By M. Mikell Johnson
Categories: African-American women; Civil rights activists
African American Registry
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Memories and Tributes
Names of Baha’i listed on the ‘Program of Memories and Tributes’ are: Anita Chapman, Euretta Adair, Theodies Washington, Tahmineh Parsons (all from Washington, DC); Clarence Rishworth, and Evander Gilmer (Maryland); Shakowfeh Najafabadi (?).