The following is reposted with permission from USENET's soc.religion.bahai:
                            EARLY HISTORY
In May of 1844, a young Persian by the name of Siyyid Ali Muhammad
declared that He was the first of two Prophets promised by many of the
religions of the past; to Shi'ah Islam He claimed to be the promised
Qa'im, to Judaism the return of the "Prophet Elijah", and to
Christianity the return of "John the Baptist", to the Zoroastrian
Faith "Hooshidar Maah" or "The Morning Star".  He took the title of
The Bab (Gate).  The Bab claimed to be the latest in a line of
Manifestations (messengers) of God dating back to the time of Abraham
and including Moses, Christ, and Muhammad.  The Bab's mission was
twofold: He first announced to the people of His native land His own
station as an independent Messenger and He also prepared the way for
the coming of another Manifestation, a Prophet who would announce His
station soon after The Bab.
The next six years marked a dramatic increase in both the number of
persons who became followers of the Bab and in the energy spent by the
Shi'ah clergy of Iran to stamp out this new religion.  Eventually
20,000 Babis would be put to death for their beliefs.  The Bab himself
was imprisoned in the fortresses of Mah-Ku and Chihriq, and in July of
1850 was executed in the town of Tabriz.
Many Babis were also imprisoned.  Among them was a Man by the name of
Husayn Ali, who was imprisoned in 1853 in Tehran for several months
and then exiled to Iraq.  It was in the city of Baghdad in 1863 that
Husayn Ali announced to the world His station.  He declared that He
was the One that the Bab had prepared the way for and He took the
title of Baha'u'llah (The Glory of God) given to Him by His forerunner
The Bab.  Baha'u'llah claimed to be the Promised One of many
religions; the Return of Christ to Christianity, the "Lord of Hosts"
to Judaism, the Imam Husayn to Shi'ah Islam, the "Spirit of God" or
"the Return of Christ" to Sunni Islam, the Shah-Bahram of Zoroastrian
Faith, the reincarnation of Krishna or manifestation of Kalki Avatar
to Hindu Faith, and Maitrya-Amitabha or the fifth Buddha or to
Buddhism.  The majority of the Babis (the followers of the Bab)
accepted Baha'u'llah's claim and became known as Baha'is (the follower
of Baha).
Shortly after His declaration, Baha'u'llah was again banished even
further From His native land, to Baghdad, Constantinople and then to
Adrianople.  Finally in 1867, Baha'u'llah was exiled for the last
time.  He was sent to the prison city of Akka (Acre) in Palestine.  He
would stay in and around Akka until the end of His life in 1892.
Before Baha'u'llah passed away, He appointed His eldest son,
Abdu'l-Baha, to be the center of His Covenant and the interpreter of
His writings Abdu'l-Baha was leader of the Baha'i Faith until His own
passing in 1922.  Although He is not considered to be a Manifestation
of God like the Bab and Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha's decisions are
believed to have been divinely guided and His writings (along with the
Bab's and Baha'u'llah's) are considered a part of the Baha'i sacred
scripture.  After being released from the prison in Akka, Abdu'l-Baha
made several journeys to the West, including a trip to America in