Howard Thurman

Scanned: December 14, 2005
Howard Thurman
at Marsh Chapel
March 6, 1959
Historical

Howard Thurman (1899-1981), mystic, author, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader was rated as one of the 12 most important religious leaders in the United States in 1953 by Life magazine. After reading books by him or about him, you would likely agree, if you have not already. If you needed more convincing, just listen to him being interviewed or watch documentaries about him on YouTube.

Thurman was a prolific author. Many would attest that his most renowned book wasJesus and the Disinherited, which was written in 1949. This book stems from a published seven-page essay that Thurman entitled “Good News for the Underprivileged” which helped shape the ensuing civil rights movement in the United States. The first chapter, “Jesus-an Interpretation” lays down the groundwork that presents Jesus as a partner in the pain of the oppressed and whose life offers a solution which is a self-love and a love of others which is where, according to Thurman, personal and societal transformation are creatively joined.

Thurman described such love as rooted in a “deep river of faith” which helps oppressed persons and groups of persons overcome oppression. He wrote that this deep river “may twist and turn, fall back on itself and start again, stumble over an infinite series of hindering rocks, but at last the river must answer the call to the sea.”

Recommended Reading and Reflection:

We Changed the World: African Americans 1945-1970 by Vincent Harding, Robin D.G. Kelley, and Earl Lewis
This book highlights how the U.S. Civil Rights Movement empowered African Americans to move beyond protest and to work towards societal changes that would improve every American’s life. They positively changed society in the United States as vividly described in the book although the struggle continues to this day.

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