Howard Thurman (born 1899 in Daytona Beach, Florida – April 10, 1981 in Daytona Beach, Florida) was an influential American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was Dean of Theology and the chapels at Howard and Boston universities for more than two decades, wrote 20 books, and in 1944 helped found the first racially integrated, multicultural church in the United States.

Thurman was selected as dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University in the District of Columbia in 1932. He served there from 1932-1944.

Thurman traveled broadly, heading Christian missions and meeting with world figures such as Mahatma Gandhi. When Thurman asked Gandhi what message he should take back to the United States, Gandhi said he regretted not having made nonviolence more visible as a practice worldwide and suggested some American Black men would succeed where he had failed.

In 1944 Thurman left his tenured position at Howard to help the Fellowship of Reconciliation establish the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, California. It was the first racially integrated, intercultural church in the United States. He served as co-pastor with a white minister Dr. Alfred Fisk. Many of their congregation were African Americans who had migrated to San Francisco from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas for jobs in the defense industry. The church helped create a new community for many in San Francisco.

Dr. Thurman was then invited to Boston University, where he became the first Black Dean of Marsh Chapel (1953-1965). He was the first black to be named tenured Dean of chapel at a majority-white university. Thurman was also active and well-known in the Boston community, where he influenced many leaders. After leaving Marsh Chapel in 1965, Thurman continued his ministry as Chairman of the Board and director of the Howard Thurman Educational Trust in San Francisco until his death in 1981.

Thurman was a prolific author, writing 20 books of ethical and cultural criticism. The most famous of his works, Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), deeply influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders, both black and white, of the modern Civil Rights Movement. (Thurman was a classmate and friend of King’s father at Morehouse College. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Thurman while he attended Boston University, and Thurman in turn mentored his former classmate’s son and his friends). He served as spiritual advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sherwood Eddy, James Farmer, A. J. Muste, and Pauli Murray.


Thurman on religious dogma

The Howard Thurman Film Project


With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman by Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman: Essential Writings by Howard Thurman (Author), Luther E. Smith (Introduction)

Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman

Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman

Disciplines of the Spirit by Howard Thurman

The Inward Journey by Howard Thurman

The Search for Common Ground by Howard Thurman

Deep Is the Hunger by Howard Thurman

A Strange Freedom by Howard Thurman (Author)

Howard Thurman’s Great Hope (Lee Low) by Kai Jackson Issa (Author), Arthur L. Dawson (Illustrator)

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