The Howard Thurman Story on WORLD 2/8 and Public Television in February

The Howard Thurman Story on WORLD 2/8 and Public Television in February

Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story explores the extraordinary life and legacy of one of the most important religious figures of the 20th century. Born the grandson of slaves, Howard Thurman became the "spiritual foundation" for the Civil Rights Movement, inspiring many of its leaders - including his close friend Martin LUTHER King, Jr. Featured in the film are a host of scholars, theologians, and Civil Rights PIONEERS including Congressman John Lewis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan, and more. Written and directed by Martin Doblmeier, the creator of dozens of award-winning films on faith, Backs Against THE WALL premieres on the WORLD Channel on Friday, February 8, 2019, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET (check local listings), and on public television stations throughout the month of February.

Born in 1899, Howard Thurman distinguished himself at an early age, becoming the first African American to graduate from the eighth grade in his hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida. He went on to become valedictorian of his class at Morehouse College, studied at the Rochester Theological Seminary and Haverford College and would eventually be an influential teacher at Morehouse, Spelman College and Howard University.

In the mid-1930s, Thurman's life was transformed when he was the first African American invited to India to meet Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi suggested that it would be through the African AMERICAN EXPERIENCE that the non-violence resistance movement could take on global significance. When Thurman returned to America, his writings and speeches planted the early seeds for the non-violent Civil Rights Movement. Says Jesse Jackson, "Thurman helped establish the philosophical FRAMEWORK of how to struggle. They may be able to break your bones or your arms, but not your spirit." Thurman would go on to write the influential Jesus and the Disinherited, which firmly connected the life of Jesus with the struggles of the oppressed everywhere.

Thurman is also remembered for helping launch The Fellowship Church for All

People in San Francisco, considered to be the nation's first interracial, multicultural church community. Launched in 1944, the church experimented with new forms of worship including theater and dance and counted Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune as at-large members.

In all of his teachings, Thurman was determined to break down what he saw as the artificial walls between races, nationalities and denominations. He went on to serve as dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University (1953-1965), eventually retiring to San Francisco where he died in 1981.

Visit the Journey Films web site to learn more about the film, view video clips, see a list of screenings and events, and download educational materials, screening guides and more.

Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story is produced by Journey Films, Inc., and is a presentation of Maryland Public Television. Major funding provided by the Lilly Endowment.

Watch the trailer here:

The Howard Thurman Story on WORLD 2/8 and Public Television in February

About Journey Films

Founded in 1983 by Martin Doblmeier, Journey Films is a television and film production company specializing in religion, faith and spirituality. Journey has produced more than 30 documentary films that have aired on PBS, ABC, NBC, the BBC and on broadcast outlets around the world. Journey's films have been translated into more than a dozen languages. The early films introduced the American audience to the faith communities of Taize and L'Arche. Biographical documentaries followed with profiles on Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, the celebrated German theologian and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the architect of the Catholic Church's Vatican II - Cardinal Suenens. The Power of Forgiveness won many top awards and inspired a companion book. A profile of the Washington National Cathedral won a regional Emmy and The ADVENTISTS films became a popular series on PBS stations and a best-selling DVD on Amazon. In all, Journey's films have won six Gabriel Awards for the nation's best film on a topic of religion, three awards at the US International Film and Television Festival, the Sun Valley Film Festival and many others. More information is available at

About MPT

Maryland Public Television (MPT), launched in 1969 and headquartered in Owings Mills, MD, is a nonprofit, state-licensed public television network and member of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). MPT's six transmitters cover Maryland plus portions of contiguous states and the District of Columbia. A frequent winner of regional Emmy® Awards, MPT also produces national television series and films, including MotorWeek, My Greek Table with Diane Kochilas, Steven Raichlen's Project Fire, and TO DINE FOR with Kate Sullivan. For more information visit

About WORLD Channel

WORLD Channel tells stories that humanize complex issues. WORLD shares the best of public media in news, documentaries, and fact-based informational programming that helps us understand conflicts, movements and cultures that may be distinct from our own. WORLD's original content offers a national platform to MAKERS examining issues too often ignored by mainstream media. These emerging and master filmmakers spotlight a diversity of voices, telling stories not heard elsewhere. WORLD has won a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont- Columbia Award and numerous national honors-including an RTNDA Kaleidoscope Award, a Media for a Just Society Award, two Lesbian & Gay Journalist Awards, a Gracie, and an Asian American Journalists Award. Carried by 156 partner stations in markets representing almost 67% of US TV households, WORLD can also be experienced via and all social media platforms.

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