Howard Thurman peace4hearts October 12, 2022

Howard Washington Thurman

Timeline A chronological list of events in the life of Howard Thurman
Audio Archives Archived recordings of Howard Thurman and people close to him


Backs Against The Wall: The Howard Thurman Story
Suggested Reading A collection of books and articles to read on the life and work of Howard Thurman


Howard Washington Thurman was born

Born near Palm Beach, FL on November 18, and grew up in Daytona Beach, FL.  Raised by his mother and grandmother (who was a slave) after his father dies when Thurman is 7 years old.

Begins High School

Begins high school at the Florida Baptist Academy in Jacksonville, FL because “coloreds” were allowed to complete only to 7th grade.

Graduates High School

Graduates as valedictorian of his class and receives a tuition scholarship to Morehouse College.

Graduates from College

Graduates as valedictorian from Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA.

Ordained as a Minister

Becomes ordained minister after earning seminary degree from Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary.  Graduates as valedictorian of seminary class.

Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Begins ministerial duties as pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Oberlin, Ohio.

Studied at Haverford College

Studies philosophy and mysticism at Haverford College with Rufus Jones, Quaker philosopher, mystic, and pacifist.

Joint Professorship

Secures joint professorship in religion at Morehouse and Spelman College in Atlanta, GA.

Kate Kelly Thurman Passes

First wife, Kate Kelley Thurman, mother of their first child, Olive dies from tuberculosis, acquired from her work as a social worker in the black branch of the Anti-Tuberculosis of Atlanta.

Marries Sue Bailey

In June, marries activist and educator, Sue Bailey, who later (1934) becomes mother of second daughter, Anne Spencer Thurman.

Dean of Rankin Chapel

Assumes post of Professor and Dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University in Washington, DC.

"Pilgramage of Friendship"

Led “Pilgrimage of Friendship” to India, Burma, and Ceylon where he meets Mahatma Gandhi.  Vows to live by teachings of Indian spiritual and political leader.

Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Co-founds and becomes pastor at the first intentional multi-racial congregation—Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, CA.

Congregation Grows

“Fellowship Church” grows to 250 members (at least half of whom are White, the remainder Black, Chinese, Japanese and Filipino) with international support from Great Britain, Japan, South Africa, India, Iran, and Taiwan.

Jesus and the Disinherited

Publishes his most famous book, Jesus and the Disinherited using New Testament gospels to describe how a non-violent civil rights movement could be successful.  This book would influence a number of civil rights leaders among them James Farmer founder of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and Martin Luther King, Jr. who carried the book with him whenever he marched.

Media Recognition

Life Magazine names Howard Thurman as the twelve “Greatest Preachers of the 20th Century.”  Ebony Magazine designates Thurman as one of the 50 most important figures in African American History.

Marsh Chapel

Leaves Fellowship Church to become first African American Professor and Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, a position he held until he retired in 1965.

Howard Thurman Educational Trust

Becomes Director of the Howard Thurman Educational Trust and Minister Emeritus at Fellowship Church.


Passes away in San Francisco on April 10, 1981.

Source:, Primary Contributor: Johnetta Richards, San Francisco State University and revised by Lerita Coleman Brown.


Suggested Reading

Howard Thurman, With Hand and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman

New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1981.

Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited

Boston: Beacon Press, (1949), 1996 (reprint edition).

Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart

Boston: Beacon Press, 1999

Howard Thurman, The Centering Moment

Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1981

Howard Thurman, Deep is the Hunger

Richard, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1978

Howard Thurman, Disciplines of the Spirit

Richard, Indiana: Friends United Press, 1963

Gregory C. Ellison, III, (Ed). Anchored in the Current-Discovering Howard Thurman as Educator, Activist, Guide, and Prophet

Westminster John Knox Press, 2020

Peter Eisenstadt & Walter Earl Fluker, (Eds), Walking with God: The sermon Series of Howard Thurman, Vol 2., The Way of the Mystics

Orbis Books, 2022

Lerita Coleman Brown, An Ordinary Mystic: Contemplation, Inner Authority, and Spiritual Direction in the Life and Work of Howard Thurman

Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction, 18, 14-22, 2012

Walter E. Fluker, Catherine Tumber (Eds.), A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life

Boston: Beacon Press, 1998

Donna Schaper (Ed.) 40 Day Journey with Howard Thurman

Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 2009.

Luther Smith, Jr., Howard Thurman-The Mystic as Prophet. Richard

Indiana: Friends United Press, 1991

Luther Smith, Jr. (Ed.) Howard Thurman: Essential Writings

New York: Orbis, 2006

Walter Fluker (Ed.), The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman: Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4

Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019

Howard Thurman Papers Projects

Recently, the Howard Thurman Papers Projects completed publication of a five volume set filled with selected speeches, lectures, or sermons, and correspondence. The five volumes are intended primarily for scholars and seminary students writing papers on Howard Thurman but are available for order and purchase from any bookstore or online.