This image is the cover for the book Howard Thurman and the Disinherited, Library of Religious Biography (LRB)

Howard Thurman and the Disinherited, Library of Religious Biography (LRB)

The faith journeys of a major mentor to the civil rights movement

Teacher. Minister. Theologian. Writer. Mystic. Activist. No single label can capture the multiplicity of Howard Thurman’s life, but his influence is evident in the most significant aspects of the civil rights movement. In 1936, he visited Mahatma Gandhi in India and subsequently brought Gandhi’s concept of nonviolent resistance across the globe to the United States. Later, through his book Jesus and the Disinherited, he foresaw a theology of American liberation based on the life of Jesus as a dispossessed Jew under Roman rule. 

Paul Harvey’s biography of Thurman speaks to the manifold ways this mystic theologian and social activist sought to transform the world to better reflect “that which is God in us,” despite growing up in the South during the ugliest years of Jim Crow. After founding one of the first intentionally interracial churches in the country—the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco—he shifted into a mentorship role with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. He advised them to incorporate more inward seeking and rest into their activism, while also recasting their struggle for racial equality in a more cosmopolitan, universalist manner. 

As racial justice once again comes to the forefront of American consciousness, Howard Thurman’s faith and life have much to say to a new generation of the disinherited and all those who march alongside them.

Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey is professor of history and presidential teaching scholar at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He is the author or coauthor of several books on religion and race in US history, including The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, which was named a "Top 25 Outstanding Academic Title" by Choice magazine in 2013.

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.