The central focus of this book is right there in the subtitle, in the words “unfinished” and “common ground.” Some essential contemporary writers — many of them Black scholars of religion and all of them deserving a wide audience — write essays here on the life and thought of Black theologian and spiritual writer Howard Thurman.

Thurman is a member of our “Remembering Spiritual Master Project.” We are interested in every resource that aims to grasp and integrate his thought and practice. For example, you might next discover Backs Against the Wall , the 2019 documentary about this African-American mystic, pastor, and spiritual mentor to leaders in the civil rights movement by filmmaker Martin Doblmeier, which we reviewed.

For Thurman, the inner life was central. He taught two generations of students and civil rights leaders the importance of contemplative practice. But never did such practice preclude giving close attention to what the editor of this book, Walter Fluker, highlights as “world-mindedness.” This balance comes through brilliantly clear in these essays.

Fluker is a professor at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta and an emeritus professor at Boston University, having held the distinguished position there of Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership.

Each of these essays is written by scholars, and the book will undoubtedly be used most often in classroom settings, but spiritual practice flows through each reflection on Howard Thurman, because his life was made of spiritual practices such as connection, listening, peace, and justice.

For example, chapter 10 by Peter Eisenstadt, Thurman’s most recent biographer, is all about courage and being not afraid. The author emphasizes the importance of Thurman’s classic work from 1949, Jesus and the Disinherited. In that book, Thurman emphasizes the “three hounds of hell” that challenged Jesus and that continue to challenge every person trying to do some good in the world: fear, deception, and hate.

If you are trying to do good in this world, you may need this wisdom, and others like it. The contributors also include Gregory C. Ellison II writing on Thurman’s teaching of the danger of living without commitment to greater good. Ellison quotes from an unpublished Thurman sermon in Boston in which the theologian said to a room of very educated people:

“There is nothing more tragic in human life than to see the trained mind, the mind that has mastered the discipline or the particular area of human knowledge, and at the center of that trained mind there is no fundamental commitment; no hard core of metaphysical purpose. The result is the trained mind is for rent.”

Fluker et al provide a wide range of paths from which to discover the ground that Howard Thurman prepared, remembering his legacy, and exhorting us to keep navigating the prophetic way of justice and peace to a future of promise.