Howard Thurman
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Although he is best known as a mentor to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Howard Thurman (1900–1981) was an exceptional philosopher and public intellectual in his own right. In Howard Thurman: Philosophy, Civil Rights, and the Search for Common Ground, Kipton E. Jensen provides new ways of understanding Thurman's foundational role in and broad influence on the civil rights movement and argues persuasively that he is one of the unsung heroes of that time. While Thurman's profound influence on King has been documented, Jensen shows how Thurman's reach extended to an entire generation of activists.

Thurman espoused a unique brand of personalism. Jensen explicates Thurman's construction of a philosophy on nonviolence and the political power of love. Showing how Thurman was a "social activist mystic" as well as a pragmatist, Jensen explains how these beliefs helped provide the foundation for King's notion of the beloved community.

Throughout his life Thurman strove to create a climate of "inner unity of fellowship that went beyond the barriers of race, class, and tradition." In this volume Jensen meticulously documents and analyzes Thurman as a philosopher, activist, and peacemaker and illuminates his vital and founding role in and contributions to the monumental achievements of the civil rights era.



Publié par
Date de parution 03 décembre 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781643360485
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1850€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Philosophy, Civil Rights, and the Search for Common Ground
Kipton E. Jensen
2019 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at .
ISBN 978-1-64336-047-8 (hardback)
ISBN 978-1-64336-048-5 (ebook)
Jacket photograph courtesy of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University, Atlanta
To my students at Morehouse College
It is my considered judgment that the present solution is a stop-gap, a halt in the line of march toward full community or, at most, a time of bivouac on a promontory overlooking the entire landscape of American society. It is time for assessing and reassessing resources in light of the most ancient memory of the race concerning community, to hear again the clear voice of the prophet and seer calling for harmony among all the children of men. At length there will begin to be talk of plans for the new city-that has never before existed on land or sea. At the center of the common life there will be strange stirrings. Some there will be whose dreams will be haunted by forgotten events in which in a moment of insight they saw a vision of a way of life transcending all barriers alien to community.
One day there will stand up in their midst one who will tell of a new sickness among the children who in their delirium cry for their brothers who they have never known and from whom they have been cut off behind the self-imposed barriers of their fathers. An alarm will spread throughout the community that it is being felt and slowly realized that community cannot feed for long on itself; it can only flourish where always the boundaries are giving way to the coming of others from beyond them-unknown and undiscovered brothers [and sisters]. Then the wisest among them will say: What we have sought we have found, our own sense of identity. We have established a center out of which at last we can function and relate to other men [and women]. We have committed to heart and to nervous system a feeling of belonging and our spirits are no longer isolated and afraid.
Thurman, Search for Common Ground (1971)
A Chronology of Thurman s Life and Career
1 An African American Philosophy of Nonviolent Resistance
2 On the Anatomy of Hatred and the Power of Love
3 Pedagogical Personalism at Morehouse College
4 Reading Thurman as a Philosophical Personalist
5 Reading Thurman as a Social Activist Mystic
6 Reading Thurman as a Prophetic Pragmatist
7 The Growing Edges of Beloved Community
In the following chapters, I examine Thurman s thought as a philosopher: this claim constitutes both a fact about who I am-as a reader of Thurman and as someone classically trained as a philosopher, as someone attuned to the philosophical allusions and the ontological meaning of what Thurman wrote-and an expression of a modest philosophical thesis and an interpretative task, that is, demonstrating that Thurman s thought is distinctively philosophical in its scope and methods. What I have tried to do is roughly, or broadly, more analogous to what Gary Dorrien has accomplished apropos the theological or evangelical dimension in Thurman s thought, namely, to show that Thurman called American Christianity to its best religious vision and in several ways exemplified it (2003, 558), such that my complementary task consists in demonstrating how Thurman called-and continues to call-American philosophy, too, to its best [philosophical] vision and in several ways exemplified it. As a revisionist reading of Thurman s thought, this text aims to better appreciate Thurman s unique genius as a philosopher of education, philosophical personalist, political pacifist, moral psychologist, social activist, identity theorist, philosopher of religion, prophetic pragmatist, social theorist, and liberation philosopher. Thurman is instructively read as an American scholar within the black philosophical tradition as well as a spiritual genius and-in the words of Sue Bailey, Thurman s wife, herself a heroine of the civil rights movement-a tutor to the world. Although the chapters in this book oscillate between theory and practice, technical and popular, cerebral and emotive, providing a series of snapshots of Thurman s thought, I have tried to organize them in a way that-borrowing a metaphor from Thurman- plaits the strands to create a pattern that transcends the logic of any particular strand (1945, 94).
There is a fine distinction in Gandhi s theory of nonviolence between ahimsa and satyagraha , that is, between the philosophy of nonviolence and the methods of nonviolence, which many of us conflate or overlook entirely. Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr. not only took up the distinction: they understood it. Both Thurman and King saw that the philosophy and methods of nonviolence remain no less distinct, however intimate the connection. When Gandhi and Thurman finally met in 1936, they translated ahimsa as love in the Pauline sense, yet something more. Thurman construed the philosophy of nonviolence as a force superior to all the forces of brutality ([1936] 2009, 335). He saw ahimsa as a spirit of love capable of keeping the world of violence at bay. For Thurman, ahimsa was at its core a deeply personal, spiritual discipline, and it is this that must serve as a platform for conciliating victims and perpetrators of violence. Thurman s distinctively African American version of ahimsa also aimed to generate a philosophy of transcendent moral purpose and self-respect among the disinherited. Via the idiom of the black church, Thurman provided an illuminating interpretation of forgiveness. On the one hand, Thurman applied the philosophy of ahimsa to racial oppression in America; on the other, he consistently adapted and extended that philosophy in an effort to promote the unadulterated message of non-violence to the world ([1936] 2009, 337). Thurman sought to become a true representative of this philosophy, a vital force at the growing edges of nonviolence. His writings and sermons were influential-perhaps even decisive-to Martin Luther King Jr. s subsequent commitment to both the philosophy and the methods of nonviolence.
Gandhi s constructive preparation programme, as implemented within his various ashrams, aimed at restoring or otherwise enhancing the spiritual as well as physical vitality of individuals who suffered from disintegrating forms of systemic discrimination. Not altogether unlike Gandhi s constructive preparation program, the philosophy of education espoused by Benjamin E. Mays and Thurman as well as King aimed at strengthening the souls of the disinherited and disenfranchised. In ways similar to Gandhi, Mays and Thurman as well as King were pedagogically preoccupied, from the pulpit and lectern, with fostering the fragile yet sacred and resilient personalities of the oppressed, as well as the oppressors, which had been abridged or otherwise distorted by the violence inherent in racism, materialism, and militarism.
Thurman s strength is as a moral psychologist and a social philosopher. Across religious traditions, the teachings of love not only command us to resist the seemingly irresistible and altogether natural tendency to become angry, to hate, to retaliate, or to exact revenge; these traditions sometimes go so far as to entreat if not demand of us that we love our enemies. As a theologian and philosopher, as a mystic and a prophet, Thurman insisted that the teachings of love in Jesus were quite simple at their core but altogether radical in their socioethical implications. The religion of Jesus, wrote Thurman, in his early manifesto, Jesus and the Disinherited , makes the love-ethic central ([1949] 1996, 89). Elsewhere, in 1978, Thurman claims that for Jesus love was the clue to the mystery. And yet: The love-ethic is no ordinary achievement (1996, 89). Thurman would have wanted us to grow in all manner of insight into this extraordinary socioethical teaching and spiritual discipline. He believed it was important to understand the roots of anger and hatred as well as the persistent temptation to resort, immediately and without further delay, to violence when dealing with those whom we perceive to be our enemies. Like many African Americans of his generation, Thurman understood the temptation to retaliate-as William James described it in 1911- quickly, thrillingly, tragically, and by force. Thurman is quick to concede that hatred can sometimes serve the positive function of restoring or establishing for the first time the individuating core of the personality. He was a sensitive moral psychologist. What are the roots of anger? How does it arise? And how might it be overcome? His writings are replete with resources for healing ourselves and our siblings as well as our neighbors-near or far, known or unknown-and even our enemies. Like King, Thurman s response to fear and hatred as well as deception was radical because it relied on unarmed truth and unconditional love.
Thurman graduated from Morehouse College in 1923 and then taught at Morehouse from 1928 to 1931. The philosophy of education practiced at Morehouse, a historically black college in Atlanta, was personified in three luminaries of Morehouse: Benjamin E. Mays, Howard Thurman, and Martin Luther King Jr. At the centennial banquet of Morehouse College in February 1967, where he shared the rostrum with Mays and Hugh Gloster, Thurman claimed that the educational process was only partially justified by

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