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The Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground at Boston University is an on campus cultural Hub that is connected with the dean of students office and strives to foster intellectual conversation in hopes of making social change. The Howard Thurman Center also fosters speakers, events, cultural initiatives, book clubs, and podcasts centered around social, political, and human rights issues. The center was founded upon the ideology of howard thurman, the first black dean of marsh chapel at boston university, and long time scholar, poet, philosopher, educator, and confidant to martin luther king jr. Thurman’s ideology was one of resolution through nonviolence, in which he was inspired by the likes of Gandhi. The Center is currently based on the search for “Common Ground” between students and members of the BU community. According to Thurman, the search for Common Ground was “twofold”; First, humans need to be sure of themselves and look within, because it is then we can “find ourselves in every other human being.” Second, community is key- “meaningful and creative shared experiences can be more compelling than all of the faiths, fears, concepts, ideologies, and prejudices that divide; and if these experiences can be multiplied and sustained over a sufficient duration of time, then any barrier that separates one person from another can be undermined and eliminated.”


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.


History. Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground. . Accessed October 02, 2018. http://www.bu.edu/thurman/about/history/.

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/.


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