Howard Thurman & Sue Bailey Thurman Collections

Finding Aids

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About the Collections

Howard Thurman Collection – Scope & Content

The Howard Thurman collection consists of manuscripts, correspondence, subject files, audio recordings, and other items.

Manuscripts by Thurman in the collection include his books Deep River (1945); Deep Is the Hunger (Harper, 1950); Footprints of a Dream (Harper, 1959); The Luminous Darkness (Harper, 1965); The Search For Common Ground (Harper, 1971); his autobiography With Head and Heart (Harcourt, 1980); and a work titled A Track to the Water’s Edge . Also present in the collection are numerous essays, introductions, sermons, speeches, and other shorter manuscripts by Thurman, dating from the 1930s to 1980; these items include Thurman’s writing journals containing sermons and notes (1930s-1940s) and transcriptions of Thurman’s sermons (1950s-1970s). Correspondence in the collection includes personal and professional letters, dating from 1929 to 1980. Significant sections of the correspondence pertain to Howard University (1929-1944), Boston University (1952-1967), the Howard Thurman Education Trust (1968-1971), San Francisco (1938-1978), speaking engagements (1965-1980), the Fellowship Church (1944-1952), CORE, and various other organizations and individuals. Notable correspondents include Sue Bailey Thurman, Langston Hughes, Coretta Scott King, Alex Haley, Michael Burke, Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Washington, Vernon Jordan, and Elizabeth Yates.

Subject files in the collection consist of files arranged by Thurman around specific topics, and containing a variety of materials. Subjects include Boston University, B.U. students, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Broadcasting Foundation of America, Hampton Institute, the U.S. State Department, biographical material, B.U’s Marsh Chapel, various quotations, racial and religious tensions, Martin Luther King, Jr., painting, B.U.’s Thurman Center, writings, reviews, research, publicity, and various other topics.

Audio recordings in the collection consist of numerous cassette recordings of Thurman’s sermons. These date from 1951 to 1978. Other recordings are also present, including Thurman’s memorial service in 1981.

Other material in the collection includes scrapbooks from the late 1920s; Thurman’s travel diary (ca. 1935); a Howard University yearbook; and a book regarding the Fellowship Church.

Sue Bailey Thurman Collection – Scope & Content

The Sue Bailey Thurman collection consists of manuscripts, subject files, correspondence, personal memorabilia, and photographs.

Manuscripts in the collection consist of various pieces written by Thurman over the course of her long life and career. The earliest item is an English exam from the 1920s. Essay subjects include women and Women’s History Month, history, civil rights, and tributes, including a tribute to her husband, Dr. Howard Thurman. Other writings include pieces Thurman wrote for UNICO; several forwards to books written by others; an autobiographical fragment; speeches given on various occasions; notes on various books; reviews; a report on the First International Congress of Women; and other items.

Manuscripts by other in the collection consist of obituaries and tributes for Dr. Howard Thurman, who died in 1981; these writings also include letters of condolence to Thurman, among them a letter and a telegram from Coretta Scott King.

Subject files in the collection consist of various items arranged by Thurman around specific topics. Subjects include the American Society of Friends, Maya Angelou, black history, the YWCA, Boston University, the Fellowship Church, the National Council of Negro Women, the San Francisco African-American Historical and Cultural Society, Dr. Howard Thurman, Mount Bethel Baptist Church, and autobiographical fragments. Files on the Bailey family include numerous items regarding their history and genealogy.

Correspondence in the collection is organized by letter and by topic. The first section consists of general letters, organized alphabetically. The second section consists of letters arranged by topic or sender and listed alphabetically within that topic. Subjects include the American City Bureau, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rose Edington, Ruth E. Hill, a trip to India, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Silber, speaking tours, and Thurman herself. The third section of letters are arranged alphabetically. On the whole, the letters date from 1925 to the 1990’s.

Personal memorabilia in the collection primarily consists of awards (mainly certificates) presented to Thurman from 1953 to 1996. Present in the collection are awards presented by the Massachusetts State Senate, California State Senate, California Legislative Assembly, Rust College, the Museum of Afro-American History, Spelman College, Youth on the Move, and others. Also included is a framed piece of cloth, woven by Mohandas Gandhi and presented to Mrs. Thurman by Gandhi himself on the occasion of their meeting in 1936.

Photographs in the collection consist of a photo album from the January 1992 Boston University commencement at which Thurman received an honorary degree.

Online Access

Materials from the Thurman collections may be unavailable online during some technical migration of our sites.

In some cases online materials may be available for the Thurman Collections via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, such as for audio recordings including sermons delivered by Howard Thurman.

For assistance obtaining materials, please Contact Us.