Howard Thurman’s genius showed in his ability to align his Christian faith with universal values of love and justice.
But first, he had to confront the contradiction of US Christianity: he believed in the same religion used by White people to enslave and terrorize Black people.
In 1949, he wrote Jesus and the Disinherited to proclaim that Christianity’s true power lied in liberating oppressed peoples around the world. Martin Luther King would go on to carry a copy of that book in his pocket during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
As a true testament to his beliefs, Thurman established the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, which was the first interracial, intercultural, and interfaith church in the United States.
Howard Thurman’s life and work shows us that spirituality and social transformation depend on each other. He himself was never on the front lines of marches and sit-ins, yet Thurman played an inordinate role in guiding the next generation of Black leaders.