The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman is a four-volume, chronologically arranged documentary edition spanning the long and productive career of the Reverend Howard Thurman, one of the most significant leaders in the history of intellectual and religious life in the mid-twentieth-century United States. As the first to lead a delegation of African Americans to meet personally with Mahatma Gandhi, in 1936, Thurman would become one of the principal architects of the modern nonviolent Civil Rights Movement and a key mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1953 Life magazine named Thurman as one of the twelve greatest preachers of the century.
The four volumes of this collection, culled from over 58,000 documents from public and private sources, will feature more than 850 selections of Thurman's sermons, letters, essays, and other writings—most published here for the first time. Each volume will open with an editorial statement, followed by a thematic introductory essay to guide the reader through the dominant themes in Thurman's thought: his understanding of spirituality and social transformations, his creative ecclesiology, and his conception of civic character and the national democratic experiment. Detailed annotations to each document illumine Thurman's personal, professional, and intellectual development and place the texts into their historical context. The volumes are further augmented with detailed chronologies and representative illustrations.
Volume 2 (April 1936-August 1943) documents Thurman's years after his return from South Asia and his final years as a professor of philosophy and religion and dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University. The texts, images, and editorial commentary presented here reveal the maturation of Thurman's theological and social vision, formed by his memories of his time in Asia, his meeting with Gandhi, and his growing commitment to radical nonviolence. His writing also reflects the context of his time, responding to the great events of the day: the Depression, the Great Migration, the birth of the modern Civil Rights Movement, and the coming of World War II. This volume ends immediately prior to Thurman's decision in late 1944 to leave the security of Howard University to copastor a fledgling church in San Francisco, the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, one of the first churches in the United States to be organized on an explicitly interracial basis. Critical to understanding the full scope of Thurman's career, the myriad writings gathered in volume 2 also illustrate the early germination of ideas central to the twenty-three books Thurman subsequently authored. Their publication here gives new opportunity to understand these pieces in the context of his life and the genesis of his vision.
This documentary edition is made possible through the efforts of the Howard Thurman Papers Project, a division of the Leadership Center at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and is supported by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.; the Henry Luce Foundation; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Pew Charitable Trusts, Inc.; and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Walter Earl Fluker is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership and the senior editor and director of the Howard Thurman Papers Project at Boston University. He is author of Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility and Community; They Looked for a City: A Comparative Analysis of the Ideal of Community in Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr.; and coeditor with Catherine Tumber of A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life.