Abilene Christian University is bringing two outstanding presentations to campus Jan. 16-17. Both programs are free and open to the public.

The first is a showing of the new film (a PBS documentary) about Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King’s mentor. “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story” explores the extraordinary life of a man who, in his heart, was a poet and “mystic.” Yet through his religious expression, Thurman helped ignite sweeping social change. Though he was born the grandson of slaves, Howard Thurman went on to become one of the great spiritual and religious pioneers of the 20th century whose words and influence continues to echo today. His writing and teaching formed the basis for the work of Martin Luther King and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.

This free screening and discussion with the award-winning producer and director Martin Doblmeier will explore issues concerning current implications for Thurman’s teaching and action. The screening is sponsored by the Carl Spain Center for Race Studies and Spiritual Action at Abilene Christian University. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16 in the Hunter Welcome Center.


The second event is a lecture sponsored by the ACU Department of History and the Carl Spain Center. It is titled “Fit for Freedom, Fit for Friendship: African American and Quaker Cooperation in the Antislavery Movement” by Julie L. Holcomb, PhD, Graduate Program Director for the M.A. in Museum Studies and Associate Professor of Museum Studies at Baylor University. The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan, 17, in Room 114 of the Biblical Studies Building.

“American Quakers were the first church to question the morality of slavery, to require their members to emancipate their slaves, and to defend the rights of freed blacks. Although Quaker abolitionists struggled with racism, Quakers’ commitment to racial justice was far more progressive than many of their contemporaries. In this talk, I will focus on African American and Quaker cooperation in the fight against slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By establishing institutions, organizing associations, and creating communities, Quakers and African Americans challenged traditional boundaries of race and religion. Their efforts highlight the possibilities and the limitations of such cooperative efforts in confronting social injustice.

Julie Holcomb is associate professor and graduate program director in museum studies at Baylor University. Prior to her appointment at Baylor, Holcomb was the founding director of the Pearce Civil War and Western Art Museums in Corsicana. She is the author of “Moral Commerce: Quakers and the Transatlantic Boycott of the Slave Labor Economy” (Cornell University Press, 2016). She is also the editor of “Southern Sons, Northern Soldiers: The Civil War Letters of the Remley Brothers, 22nd Iowa Infantry” (Northern Illinois University Press, 2004). Her book “Exploring the History of the American Civil War Through 50 Historic Treasures” is under contract with Rowman and Littlefield. Holcomb is also working on a biography of nineteenth-century Orthodox Quaker George W. Taylor, who was active in the free produce, temperance, and peace movements.

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