Howard Thurman, An American Original

When, near the end of his life, Howard Thurman was called "one of the greatest spiritual resources of this nation," it was not an exercise in hyperbole. He was an American original, constantly defying categories of every kind, opening a variety of unexpected worlds and uncharted paths. A deeply rooted child of the southern black community, he became a teacher and spiritual guide for thousands of persons of every race, creed, and nationality.--Historian Vincent Harding

Each year the December issue of Sojourners focuses on a person or group of people who give hands, feet, head, and heart to God's multifaceted love and truth. This theme of "incarnation" is a way of celebrating Jesus' birth and the abiding presence of God in today's world.

This year we honor Howard Thurman. A minister, theologian, and teacher, Thurman was a spiritual commentator on a wide range of issues--segregation and racism, relationships between religions, the nourishment of the inner life, and God's special word to the outcast, to name but a few.

Although he was a revered mentor to many in the civil rights movement, and a source of wisdom and inspiration for both contemplatives and activists of numerous creeds, Howard Thurman remains remarkably unknown to many others in the church. This is a great loss, for his story and his words provide rich food for the soul and mind.

BORN IN 1900, Howard Thurman was raised in the close-knit black community of segregated Daytona, Florida, by his mother and grandmother (his father died when Thurman was a boy). Despite the barriers put up by racism and the lack of funds, he passionately pursued his education, graduating from Atlanta's Morehouse College and then Rochester Theological Seminary.

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Sojourners Magazine December 1993
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