Howard Thurman

DAMARISCOTTA — In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story” is coming to Damariscotta’s Lincoln Theater Sunday at 2 p.m.

As one of the key African-American leaders of the 20th century and a mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Backs Against the Wall” highlights Thurman’s influence with interviews from civil rights leaders including Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan, John Lewis and others.

The title for “Backs Against the Wall,” directed and narrated by Martin Doblmeier, comes from a phrase Thurman used to describe oppressed people, including African-Americans, and how Christianity could speak to them: “I would have to find out what was the word that the religion of Jesus had to say to the man with his back against the wall.”

Thurman (1889-1991) was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, the grandson of a former slave. As an adult he became a nature mystic – practicing what is today called a “contemplative spirituality.” Thurman believed that people can feel, talk to, love, experience or worship God in a variety of ways. Thurman graduated as valedictorian from Morehouse College in 1923, was ordained in 1925 as a Baptist minister at First Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia and became a professor and the director of spiritual life at Morehouse College.

In the 1930s, Thurman traveled to India where he became the first black American to meet Mohandas Gandhi, who taught him the strategy of nonviolent resistance.

A writer of sermons, poems and meditations, Thurman’s most well know book “Jesus and the Disinherited,” explained his theology to uplift the oppressed and was considered a key text of the Civil Rights Movement. He was a professor of theology at institutions including Howard University and Boston University, co-founded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, one of the first interracial and intercultural churches in the country. He also served as the first black Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University.

Lincoln Theater is located at 2 Theater St. in Damariscotta. A discussion will be held following the film. Tickets are $6 and will be on sale at the door beginning one hour before the screening. High School students with a student ID will be admitted for free. There are no advance sales for this event.

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