Online Forum on Howard Thurman and the Civil Rights Movement

Howard Thurman (Flickr)

April 11–18, 2023

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting an online forum on Howard Thurman’s Spiritual and Intellectual Contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Thurman had a profound influence on civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was one of the first Black educators to introduce the philosophy of nonviolence to young activists. Organized by Tejai Beulah Howard, the online roundtable brings together scholars to discuss the life and legacy of Howard Thurman as a professor and preacher. It begins on Tuesday, April 11th, and concludes on Tuesday, April 18th. The online forum will feature contributions from Thurman’s biographer, Peter Eisenstadt; one of Thurman’s students, Pastor Dorsey O. Blake; and scholars Victoria Wolcott, D’Ondre Swails, Eva Bohler, and Tryce Prince. 

During the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 6:00AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHS) on Twitter, like AAIHS on Facebook, or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the roundtable.

About the Organizer

Tejai Beulah Howard, Ph. D. is an assistant professor of history and African American religious and ethical studies at Methodist Theological School in Ohio in Delaware, Ohio and a certified spiritual director. Her research interests include Black religious intellectuals, gender and sexuality in U.S. history, African American music, spirituality, and social movements, and race/ethnicity studies. Outside of teaching, she is involved with Freedom Church of the Poor and several professional organizations. Dr. Beulah Howard’s recent writing is featured in the book, We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign (Broadleaf, 2021) edited by Rev. Liz Theoharis, The Other Journal, Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, and Journal of American Academy of Religion. She is currently at work on a monograph on the role of the black power movement and black evangelical preachers. For fun, she enjoys music, bookstores, true crime documentaries, and sports. She resides in Columbus, Ohio, with her amazing spouse, Jenn.

About the Participants

Peter Eisenstadt, Ph.D., is an independent scholar and an affiliate member of the Clemson University History Department. He is the author or editor of over twenty books, including the Encyclopedia of New York State, and Rochdale Village: Robert Moses, 6,000 Families, and New York City’s Great Experiment in Integrated Housing, which was awarded the New York Society Library Prize for the best book on New York City History.  Against the Hounds of Hell: A Life of Howard Thurman, the first comprehensive biography of its subject, was the culmination of a long-standing scholarly interest. He was the associate editor for the five volumes of the Papers of Howard Washington Thurman, co-author with Quinton Dixie of Visions of a Better World: Howard Thurman’s Pilgrimage to India and the Origins of  African American Nonviolence, and co-editor, with Walter Earl Fluker, of the four volumes of Walking with God: The Sermon Series of Howard ThurmanHe lives in Clemson, South Carolina.

Dorsey Odell Blake has served as Presiding Minister of The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples (San Francisco) since 1994. Fellowship Church was founded in 1944, as the nation’s first intentionally interracial, interfaith congregation by Dr. Howard Thurman and Dr. Alfred Fisk. During Dr. Blake’s installation service, Mrs. Sue Bailey (Howard) Thurman presented Dr. Thurman’s robe — which had not been worn since his death – to Dr. Blake as a symbol of her trust in his leading the congregation “so that there will be no past greater than our future.” Dr. Blake also serves as a Faculty Associate at the Pacific School of Religion as well as a faculty member of the Proctor Institute, Children’s Defense Fund. Additionally, he is a member of the Advisory Board of Ethics in Tech and the coordinating committee for the National Council of Elders. Dr. Blake has extensive field ministry experience with interfaith groups addressing justice and peace issues, including California People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, The Interfaith Alliance for Prison Reform, Genesis, The San Francisco Interfaith Council, and Religious Witness with Homeless People.

Eva Bohler is an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. She holds a Ph.D. in Africology and African American Studies from Temple University. Her research interests include the philosophical thought of Howard Thurman, the political activism of Africana women, and Harlem Renaissance literature.



Victoria W. Wolcott is a Professor of History at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. She has published three books: Remaking Respectability: African American Women in Interwar Detroit (2001), Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle Over Segregated Recreation in America (2012), and Living in the Future: The Utopian Strain in the Long Civil Rights Movement (2022). In addition, she has published articles in The Journal of American History, The Journal of African American History, The Radical History Review, and the Journal of Women’s History, among others. She is currently working on two book projects: an edited collection, Utopian Imaginings: Saving the Future in the Present, and The Embodied Resistance of Eroseanna Robinson: Athleticism and Activism in the Cold War Era.

Tryce D. Prince is Ph.D. student in sociology at the University of Illinois-Chicago. His primary research explores the historical development of racial logics, and how such logics establish hierarchical notions of human value and affect intergroup relations today. Informed by this research, his dissertation explores the experiences of Black people in predominantly White organizations. Tryce is the co-author of ‘Religion and Race: A Double-Edged Sword,’ which appears in the textbook Religion Matters: How Sociology Helps Us Understand Religion in Our WorldIn addition to his studies, Tryce has served as a research assistant and consultant for the Black Midwest Initiative at the University of Illinois-Chicago, the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, and the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies & Spiritual Action at Abilene Christian University. Previously, Tryce has written about Howard Thurman for The Front Porch. You can follow him on social media @tryceprince.

D’Ondre Swails is an Assistant Professor of History and Global Black Studies at Clemson University. He is a graduate of Morehouse College, where he completed his BA in Philosophy & Sociology, and he received his Ph.D. in Africana Studies from Brown University. After completing his degree, he served as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Brown University Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. He specializes in 20th-century African American cultural and intellectual history and is currently working on his first book manuscript, which is a cultural history of the “bad n****r” figure.

Share with a friend:
Copyright © AAIHS. May not be reprinted without permission.