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Against the Hounds of Hell

A Life of Howard Thurman
Peter Eisenstadt

BUY Ebook · 544 pp. · ISBN 9780813944531 · $34.95 · Feb 2021
BUY Cloth · 544 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813944524 · $34.95 · Feb 2021

An inspiration to Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, and other leaders of the civil rights movement, Howard Thurman was a crucial figure in the history of African Americans in the 20th century. Until now, however, he has not received the biographical treatment he deserves. In Against the Hounds of Hell, Thurman scholar Peter Eisenstadt offers a fascinating exploration of the life of this religious thinker and activist.

Thurman’s life, was as notable for its remarkable variety as its accomplishments. The first significant African American pacifist, Thurman was the first African American to meet Mahatma Gandhi. An early and outspoken feminist, environmentalist, and advocate for social and economic justice, he was one of the first and most insistent mid-twentieth-century proponents of racial integration. At the same time, he was a key figure in the emergence of mysticism and spirituality as an alternative to formal religion.

Thurman dedicated his career to challenging what he called the "hounds of hell"—the ways in which fear, deception, and hatred so often dogged the steps of African Americans and the marginalized and disinherited peoples of the world. This biography will at last establish this multifaceted historical personage as a leading figure of twentieth-century American politics, religion, and culture.


Until now, there has been no standard one-volume biography of this transcendently important figure, one of the most important ministers, theologians, and philosophers of twentieth-century America. Eisenstadt’s magisterial work is the definitive biography of Thurman.

Paul Harvey, University of Colorado – Colorado Springs, author of Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography

Peter Eisenstadt gives current and future generations a masterpiece for understanding Thurman’s significance in shaping our history and a promising future.

Luther E. Smith Jr., Emory University, author of Howard Thurman: The Mystic as Prophet

With this thoroughly researched and elegantly written biography, Peter Eisenstadt has secured the legacy of Howard Thurman's life and work. Just as importantly, he offers readers who are just now discovering Thurman a very good idea why the renaissance of this great American's spiritual wisdom is long overdue. Read the book to learn your history, feed your soul, or change your life. Whatever your reason, Thurman and Eisenstadt will not disappoint.

Barbara Brown Taylor · Learning to Walk in the Dark

Peter Eisenstadt explores Howard Thurman through a lens only a gifted historian can offer. Eisenstadt shows that Thurman is more than a seminal religious figure; he's a genuine American icon whose wisdom and cultural importance becomes richer over time. Thurman's life story has all the elements of a rich human drama. But in the telling by Peter Eisenstadt, every detail is wrapped in just the right historic, cultural and theological context to make it ever more engaging.

Martin E. Doblmeier · "Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story "

This will likely be the definitive biography for a half-century or more.

Spirituality and Practice

About the Author(s): 

Peter Eisenstadt was Associate Editor of the Howard Thurman Papers Project and is an affiliate member of the Clemson University history department. He is author of Rochdale Village: Robert Moses, 6,000 Families, and New York City’s Great Experiment in Integrated Housing.

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