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Two of her daughters worked as domestic servants and another was a schoolteacher. Pope, who had moved to Washington from North Carolina with her husband in the 1890s, conducted her tailoring business from her home. York and Pope both embraced the faith and, edified by correspondence with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, took steps to share it with their friends and family members. They held meetings for inquirers—often attracting twenty to forty people and cutting across the class lines in black Washington—at their own homes, with Joseph or Pauline Hannen, one of her sisters, or Bahá’í visitors from other cities as teachers.
Heartened by the progress in Washington and determined to bring the message of the faith to larger numbers of blacks, he set out in the fall of 1910 for a speaking tour through the southern heart of segregated America. When Louis Gregory left the District of Columbia for points south, he was coming home to a region beset by an agricultural economy in steep decline, rapid and uneven industrialization, brutal racial oppression of one-third of the population, and astonishing levels of legal and extralegal violence.
Of the cities and towns where the faith first spread in the United States, Washington had the largest proportion of black inhabitants, some 30 percent during the first decade of the twentieth century. Compared to most cities in the country, it had a reputation as a haven of security and opportunity for African Americans, due in part to congressional oversight of the District of Columbia. In the 1880s and 1890s, as an upsurge of anti-black violence and discrimination rolled back many of the political and economic gains of Reconstruction, Washington’s black population swelled.