Howard Thurman Papers Project

Founded in 1992, the mission of the Howard Thurman Papers Project is to preserve and promote Thurman’s vast documentary record, which spans 63 years and consists of approximately 58,000 items of correspondence, sermons, unpublished writings, and speeches. To achieve this mission, the Project has four goals: 1) the publication of a multi-volume documentary edition of Thurman’s works; 2) creating an online database of Thurman’s papers that will be accessible to scholars and the general public; 3) conducting interviews (as part of an oral history project) of Thurman’s colleagues, close associates, and public figures who have been influenced by his work; and 4) creating public education programs about Thurman’s legacy, particularly as it relates to spirituality, ethics, and leadership.

The Howard Thurman Papers Project is funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Senior Editor/Director of the Howard Thurman Papers Project is Walter Earl Fluker. Dr. Fluker holds the Martin Luther King, Jr. Chair in Ethical Leadership at the Boston University School of Theology. He is the author of the seminal work, They Looked for a City: A Comparative Analysis of the Ideal of Community in the Thought of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1989) and other books and critical essays on Howard Thurman.


The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman

Through the publication of The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman, the documentary record of Thurman’s long and productive career is made accessible to the widest possible audience—scholars, non-academics, religious practitioners, students, and the broader public. The edition is published by the University of South Carolina Press.

Published in November 2009, Volume 1: My People Need Me, June 1918–March 1936 begins with Thurman’s early years in his native Daytona, Florida; moves through his formal education, his leadership in the student movement, and his years at Howard University as a professor of philosophy and religion; and ends with Thurman’s historic trip to India and his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The second volume of the edition, Christian, Who Calls Me Christian? April 1936–August 1943, published in 2012, documents the second half of Thurman’s career at Howard University as Dean of Rankin Chapel following his return from India; and his role as a leading figure in the nascent civil rights movement, including his involvement with pacifism during the period of  World War II.

Forthcoming in 2015, Volume 3: The Bold Adventure, September 1943May 1949 documents Thurman’s founding, and leadership, of the Fellowship Church for All Peoples in San Francisco, California—the nation’s first major interracial, interfaith church.

Forthcoming in 2016, Volume 4: The Soundless Passion of a Single Mind, June 1949–December 1962 covers Thurman’s tenure as the Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, where he became the first African American Dean of Chapel at a majority-white college or university in the United States.

Forthcoming in 2017, Volume 5: The Wider Ministry, 1963–1980 documents Thurman’s activities as Director of the Howard Thurman Educational Trust, through to the months shortly before his death.

Forthcoming in 2018, Volume 6 will be dedicated exclusively to Thurman’s most important sermons, particularly his sermon series. These sermons series begin in the late 1940s. This volume of sermons will allow readers to truly appreciate why Thurman is considered one of the most creative preachers of the twentieth century, as acknowledged by Life magazine in 1953. These sermon series each cover a discrete topic of enduring significance, such as democracy, social justice, the quest for peace, and the universal search for meaning in a complex world. In preparing this volume of sermons, the Project will collaborate with the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, and with Emory University, which hold audio collections of the sermons.