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Learner Inspired to Research Early Bahá’í in Durham, NC

May 30, 2023
photo of Duke Chapel, Chapel Drive, Durham, NC, USA

Image: Photo of Duke Chapel, Chapel Drive, Durham, NC, USA. Image credit: Chuck Givens on Unsplash

Course: Writing Biographies and Histories: Recording Stories of People and Places (2022)
Faculty Mentor: Thelma Batchelor

Editor’s Note: Lynn Jaluvka, of Durham, North Carolina, was very appreciative of the guidance she recieved from her instructors in the Wilmette Institute course “Writing Biographies and Histories.” The following note was emailed to us a few months after she completed the course.

My own project had been to learn as much as I could about Mary Arch, who may have been the first person to find the Faith in Durham, NC, per Steven Kolins’ earlier research.

I have spent many hours trying to learn about Mary, using ancestry.com, newspapers.com, and public records, including visiting the Orange County Registrar of Deeds who very kindly spent a couple of hours helping me locate records and check assumptions. The best information received by far came from the course instructors, Roger Dahl having located letters Mary wrote to Leonore Barnitz of the DC community, and helpful suggestions from others of the faculty. Steven Kolins also provided the actual copy of Mary’s Biographical History Card.

Outputs from the research included: 

1. A message sent to the Triangle Bahá’í Listserve in January, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mary’s declaration with a request that the friends keep her in mind to help her “carry the message”– sharing just a little bit about her and including the text of a letter in which she expressed her ardent wish to do that. I had messages back from nine or ten people, so it did reach a few hearts.

2. I have drafted a much more detailed entry for the Bahaipedia page on Mary Arch: Early Bahá’í in Durham, N.C. It is present there under my user name LJ. As I am completely new to wikipedia coding and online referencing, it is slow going to get the citations put in. Steven tells me he can see it there only because he’s so familiar with the workings of the site, but that it is unlikely others will come upon it in its unfinished state. That said, I haven’t put anything into the text that I can’t back up with sources I already have. The words need a good proofread and cleanup too. When it is done, which could still take a few weeks, I’ll let local Bahá’ís & spiritual assemblies know it is out there. 

Thanks again for your help. The course generated a passion for doing this research about Mary, and I feel quite close to her. 

PS: I never did find out how exactly Mary learned of the Faith. I am planning to write to the D.C. LSA to see if they have contact with any descendents of Alice V. Asthon Green, a Black believer in D.C. at that same time. Mary likely knew Alice and her husband, Hardie Green, who had grown up in Durham. Mary herself had a second husband, named Green. So I’m wondering if that couple’s children may have become Bahá’ís and may remember something about the circumstances of Mary’s declaration; a long shot I guess if you do the math on their ages.



Lynn Jaluvka (Durham, NC)

I've been a Bahá’í since 1997 and an LSA member in Durham County, NC, for most of those years. My husband, Ron, and I are now both semi-retired from careers in writing and editorial work, and we're very happy to have our family nearby.

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