They Looked for a City: A Comparison of the Idea of Community in Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr

Journal of Religious Ethics 18 (2):33 - 55 (1990)


Howard Thurman (1900-1981) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) were both Christian ministers and social prophets who made significant contributions to the religious and social life of America and the world. Although Howard Thurman is the lesser known of the two, his life and ministry influenced many highly visible individuals (including King) in American society and the larger world community. Both thinkers were also black Americans whose earliest experiences of oppression based on the coalescence of color and race in the segregated South had a profound impact on their quests and interpretations of human community. These early experiences, and later ones, are given in autobiographical statements throughout their writings, sermons, and speeches. While this dimension of their lives and its influence on the development of their understandings of community is a major concern of this essay, the fundamental problem addressed here is the ideal of community in Thurman and King. In the following, the continuities and discontinuities in the two thinkers' perspectives will be presented. The discussion will center upon three foci which form an analytical construct for the comparison: 1) the experiential and intellectual sources of community; 2) the nature of the ideal community; and 3) the actualization of community. In summary remarks, significant themes in both will be presented which can serve as the basis for further discussion in religious ethics on the problem of community.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,694

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

12 (#816,061)

6 months
1 (#388,319)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Martin Luther King: Resistance, Nonviolence and Community.C. Anthony Hunt - 2004 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 7 (4):227-251.
Dangerous Memories and Redemptive Possibilities: Reflections on the Life and Work of Howard Thurman.Walter Earl Fluker - 2004 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 7 (4):147-176.
Theory in History: Foundations of Resistance and Nonviolence in the American South.Preston King - 2004 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 7 (4):1-50.
Martin Luther King, Jr., as Democratic Socialist.Douglas Sturm - 1990 - Journal of Religious Ethics 18 (2):79-105.