Happy Birthday, Howard Thurman!
Prolific Author, Civil Rights Mentor, Theologian, and Inspiring Preacher and Educator.
(18 November 1899 - 10 April 1981)
Today the BlackQuaker Project celebrates the life of the renowned theologian, civil rights mentor, preacher, educator, and friend of Friends, Howard Thurman. Born in Daytona Beach Florida and raised by his grandmother who was a former slave, Thurman studied at Morehouse College, graduating in 1923. Three years later he graduated from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School with a bachelor of divinity degree. In 1929, a special semester of study with Rufus Jones at Haverford College sparked in Thurman an everlasting connection with Quakers. He would go on to have a trailblazing career as a chaplain, professor, author, and one of the preeminent public speakers and preachers of his time. He was a member of the YMCA sponsored Negro Friendship Delegation to India from 1935-1936, during which time he met Mahatma Gandhi, a meeting which had a profound effect on him and his theological work. Thurman would also serve as a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., while the latter was a doctoral student at Boston University. Regarded as a faithful friend of Friends, Thurman maintained a membership in the Wider Quaker Fellowship and his writings were often published and republished in Quaker periodicals. Especially important was Thurman’s exploration of the light and the interiority of spiritual life. Friends United Press continues to publish many of his books.
During these challenging times -- including the COVID-19 pandemic and the political transition -- with the approach of the holiday season we share with you this famous Thurman poem about Christmas. What are your feelings and thoughts about it?
The Work of Christmas - By Howard Thurman
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
Thurman will be featured in The BlackQuaker Lives Matter Film Festival coming February 2021. To learn more about Howard Thurman and to read some of his works, please see Stephen W. Angell, “Howard Thurman (1899-1981),” in Weaver, Kriese, and Angell, eds., Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights (Philadelphia: Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, 2011), 63-91.