Against the Hounds of Hell: A Life of Howard Thurman

Univ. of Virginia. Feb. 2021. 544p. ISBN 9780813944524. $34.95. BIOG
Though neither a marcher nor a demonstrator, Howard Thurman (1900–81), through his writings and sermons, influenced the thought of many more active participants in the civil rights movement. Independent historian Eisenstadt (associate editor, The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman; Rochdale Village) offers readers a full view of the multifaceted life and thought of one who was not afraid to practice Christianity as he saw fit, embracing everyone who sought an experience of God. A Christian minister, Thurman was influenced by Gandhi, whose nonviolence he adopted and adapted, and by Quaker friends, which led to an interest in mysticism. He perplexed many of his younger coreligionists, who were interested in action. Deep familiarity with Thurman’s papers allows Eisenstadt to competently trace the development of Thurman’s thought, as he moved from a call for integration to one of desegregation, and balanced respect for the common humanity of all with the need to recognize one’s particular history.
VERDICT This thoroughly researched and well-written biography of an influential African American preacher and teacher shines a light on the origins of the civil rights movement by concentrating on one who lived and preached his Christian beliefs in his own personal way.
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