Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Howard Thurman

Just recently, America celebrated the life of the great Martin Luther King Jr. What most don’t know is that King learned of Gandhi’s philosophy of change through non-violence from the theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman, who was one of Dr. King’s mentors while he was graduate student at Boston University. Therefore, I thought it was fitting to post about this fantastic man.

Howard Thurman was born in 1899 in Daytona Beach, Florida. In 1923, he graduated from Morehouse College as valedictorian. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1925, after completing his study at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, which was then known as the Colgate Rochester Theological Seminary. For the three years of 1925 – 1928 Thurman pastored Mount Zion Baptist Church in Oberlin, Ohio. Thurman then earned his doctorate at Haverford College. In 1932, Thurman was selected as dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University in the District of Columbia in which he served there from 1932-1944.

In 1944, Thurman left his tenured position at Howard to establish the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, California, which was the first racially integrated, intercultural church in the United States. He served as co-pastor with a white minister, Dr. Alfred Fisk.

In 1958, he became the first black dean of Marsh Chapel (1953–1965 at Boston University. Thurman was the first black person to be named tenured Dean of Chapel at a majority-white university. In addition, he served on the faculty of Boston University's School of Theology.

Thurman wrote as many as 20 books of ethical and cultural criticism. He died April 10, 1981 in San Francisco, California.

I highly recommend The Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground.

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