Author, philosopher, theologian, and educator Howard Thurman spent most of his childhood in this late 19th-century, two-story, wood frame vernacular residence. In quiet moments before a civil rights march, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., used to read from Thurman's Jesus and the Disinherited--a book that laid much of the philosophical foundation for a nonviolent civil rights movement. According to Thurman, fear, deception, and hatred prohibit a peaceful end to racial bigotry. These emotions isolate African Americans and whites, he wrote, and prevent either group from seeing the other as individuals free of stereotyped expectation. Only by overwhelming such restraints with love, said Thurman, can oppressed peoples surmount persecution. Their love is rooted in the "deep river" of faith:
It may twist and turn, fall back on itself and start again, stumble over an infinite series of hindering rocks, but at last the river must answer the call to the sea.
In 1923, Howard Thurman graduated from Morehouse College as valedictorian. After he was ordained a Baptist minister in 1925, he became the first black dean at Boston University and then the first dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University in the District of Columbia. In the latter position, he traveled broadly, heading Christian missions and meeting with world figures like Mahatma Gandhi. When Thurman asked Gandhi what message he should take back to America, Gandhi said he regretted not having made nonviolence more visible worldwide and suggested some American black man would succeed where he had failed.Ebony magazine called Thurman one of the 50 most important figures in African American history, and Life rated him among the 12 best preachers in the nation.