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Historic Marker Unveiled at Dr. Howard Washington Thurman House in Daytona Beach

Updated: Feb 6, 2020

L-R Percy Williamson, Paula Reed, Charles Cherry II, unknown attendee, Qasim, Abdul-Tawwab, Inez Smith-Reed, and Dinizulu Gene Tinnie stand beside the new Marker at the Howard Thurman House.

The community gathered January 18th at the Howard Thurman House to unveil a new historical marker at the historic childhood home of Dr. Howard Thurman. Born in West Palm Beach in 1899, Dr. Howard Thurman Washington spent much of his childhood in this house. Built circa 1890, the house was owned by Nancy Ambrose, Thurman's maternal grandmother, a former slave whose profound faith influenced his own. After the passing of his father, Thurman moved to Daytona Beach and lived with his grandmother.

Family friend Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was a mentor to Thurman and her work in African American education influenced him greatly. While in Daytona, Thurman became the first African American to finish the eighth grade. He later moved to Jacksonville to attend secondary school at Florida Baptist Academy. Thurman continued his education and graduated as valedictorian from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1923. In 1925, he was ordained as a Baptist minister after completing seminary training at the Colgate - Rochester School of Divinity in New York. The school only accepted two black students per year. After this, Thurman transitioned from student to teacher, working at multiple religious and educational institutions in the late 1920s. He returned to Morehouse College in Atlanta to serve as the Director of Religious Life in 1929.

Thurman went on to become an important author and religious thinker, and one of the most influential early voices shaping the nonviolent philosophy of the modern Civil Rights Movement in America. In 1935, Thurman led a pilgrimage to India and became the first African American to meet with revolutionary leader Mahatma Gandhi. This experience led him to co-found the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, the first racially-integrated church in the United States, in San Francisco in 1944. Thurman published his most famous book, Jesus and the Disinherited, in 1949, a work that would go on to influence a host of activists and leaders in the Civil Rights movement, including a young Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1953, Harold C. Case University a predominantly-white Boston University, appointed Thurman as the first black Dean of Marsh Chapel. He served in the position until 1965. As a result of Thurman's contributions to education, African American civil rights, and religious integration, the Howard Thurman House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

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