Howard Thurman Center
Backstory and Context
The Howard Thurman Center at Boston University was initially developed by Dean Emeritus George K. Makechnie in 1986 to “preserve and share the legacy of Dr. Howard Thurman”. Howard Thurman was the first black dean of Boston University Marsh Chapel, and committed his life to social justice by breaking down barriers of hatred based off of “race, culture, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity.” Howard Thurman was heavily influenced by Mohandas Gandhi, who preached the nonviolent philosophy of conflict resolution. Howard Thurman furthermore brought his message to the U.S and inspired Dr. Martin Luther King to adopt the nonviolent philosophy. It was through nonviolence that Dr. King trailblazed change during the civil rights movement.
Although the center was founded on the legacy of Howard Thurman, Anna Howard Shaw’s work played a big role in inspiring the center as well. A graduate of the Bu School of Theology, she analyzed “social injustice, poverty, and women's suffrage”. In 1885, she became one of the first woman to graduate from BU medical school.
In 1983, The Howard Thurman center was officially established and facilitates outreach programs for inmates at Norfolk State Prison for men and Framingham State prison for women. The Howard Thurman Center provided the prisoners with books, video, and audio equipment. In 1993, the student leaders at the Thurman Center created a student organization that strived to “reflect his legacy” and “deal with contemporary issues affecting group relations. These student leaders were furthermore called “Associates in the Search for Common Ground.” In 2000, the center was expanded into a part of the office of the dean of students, and consequently its mission expanded. It became BU’s “Cultural hub” that is not separated by race. According to the university, it is “intentionally inclusive and emphasizes the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone to build relationships and share experience with others.” The center hosts lectures, discussions, films, events, and resources by spreading the mission to search for common ground, where finding common ground acts as one of the goals of the center.
In 2005, BU established a Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship in which all scholars are crucial to the center. They are committed to community and social change, and foster various events at the center. On Fridays, the Howard Thurman Center hosts “coffee and conversation” in which a new topic is introduced weekly and an open discussion progresses. The center also fosters weekly book club, the “common thread” podcast, a club for male students of color called “Brothers United” as well as “Sisters United, Tea Time, Culture Council, and annual music listening parties with Dean Elmore. Today the Howard Thurman center represents an intellectual space in which society’s most pressing racial, ethnic, sexual identity, and gender problems are addressed. Conversations flourish with the goal in mind to create change by going out of your comfort zone and seeing the world from the other’s point of view.
Frazier, Sara. Sisters United Brings Black and Brown Women Together. BU Today. May 02, 2018. Accessed October 02, 2018. https://www.bu.edu/today/2018/sisters-united-brings-black-and-brown-women-together/.
About Dr. Thurman. Howard Thurman Center. . Accessed October 02, 2018. http://www.bu.edu/thurman/about/dr-thurman/.
Mission Statement. Howard Thurman Center. . Accessed October 02, 2018. http://www.bu.edu/thurman/about/dr-thurman/.