I never knew who Howard Thurman was until January 2014. I know it was in January because that is when I posted “A Place for Angels,” a post about Howard Thurman that was well received. I believe in angels just like I believe dog is man’s best friend. That’s reality.
I finished Thurman’s book Jesus and the Disinherited a few weeks ago. I think about it frequently. I’ve read that Martin Luther King, Jr. attributes much of his approach to the civil rights movement to this 1949 book. I do not doubt it. The book was outstanding and really gives a person pause to think.
I was born in 1949. I was raised to think that ‘nigger’ was a funny word and quite acceptable. I remember getting spanked for calling my brother a jackass, but it was okay to laugh about niggers. I am ashamed. I am grateful that I know better now. It is interesting to note today that because of my books Tobit and the Hoodoo Man: A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South and The Sixth Day: A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting that people who don’t know anything about me think I am a black writer. They must think my friend Alistair McKenzie is black, too after listening to The Sixth Day audio book which he narrated.
I encourage every man, woman and child to read Jesus and the Disinherited. You will be a better, stronger and more aware person if you do. Whether or not you take that recommendation, I would like to offer these short quotes from the book’s Epilogue:
“For every man there is a necessity to establish as securely as possible the lines along which he proposes to live his life [Thurman refers to this as ‘the life working paper’] … It is wide of the mark to say that a man’s working paper is ever wrong; it may not be fruitful, it may be negative, but it is never wrong ….
“It can never be determined just what a man will fashion. Two men may be born of the same parents, grow up in the same environment, be steeped in the same culture and inspired by the same faith. Close or even cursory observation may reveal that each has fashioned a life working paper so unique that they take to different roads, each day bringing them farther and farther apart ….
“It is more than the fact that there is a record of his life — as singular as that fact may be. It means that against the background of anonymity he has emerged articulate, and particular. Such a figure was Jesus of Nazareth …. for what he did, all men may do.”
Therein lies Thurman’s defining statement …
For what he did, all men may do.