[On the 130th anniversary of the birth of Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, I’m posting here an adapted chapter from my recent book ALL YOU NEED IS MORE LOVE (Caroline Street Press, 2019).]

As we anticipate the celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday later on this month, and as we recall the momentous changes wrought in the world by the civil rights movement which Dr. King so nobly led, a flood of images and icons rushes to center stage: the determination of Rosa Parks, the unvanquished spirit of Sojourner Truth, the courageous fidelity of Harriet Tubman, the stirring righteousness of Frederick Douglass, the tenacity of Ida B. Wells, the magisterial presence of Paul Robeson, the sacred audacity of Fannie Lou Hamer, the scientific mastery of George Washington Carver, the legendary revivalistic preaching of Caesar A.W. Clark, the searing prescience of W.E.B. Du Bois, the lyricism of Maya Angelou, the theological genius of Howard Thurman, and, of course, the eloquent rhetoric and life of Martin Luther King. This year I’m also remembering another figure less well known but no less significant than all the other celebrated exemplars.

In 1926, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson became the first African-American president of Howard University. Johnson would go on to invite Dr. Thurman and his wife Sue Bailey Thurman to join the faculty and then, nearly a decade later, to encourage them to go on a Pilgrimage of Friendship to India where they would be among the first four African-Americans to meet and have deep discussions with Mohandas K. Gandhi. Thurman would then bear the tenets of nonviolence to the United States, where he would convey the Mahatma’s insights to generations of adherents who would lead the civil rights struggle toward its fulfillment.

When he began, however, Mordecai Wyatt Johnson had another primary concern: raising the standards of Howard’s law school, which was then little more than a night school. Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis counseled Johnson, emphasizing that the foundation for overcoming racial discrimination was embedded in the Constitution. “What was needed,” Brandeis averred, “was for lawyers to be prepared to base their arguments before the Court precisely upon the guarantees in the document.”

Agreeing with Brandeis’ thesis and taking his counsel to heart, Mordecai Johnson secured Charles Hamilton Houston as vice-dean of the Howard University School of Law in 1929, and things got moving. An initial class of students was eventually enrolled in Howard University’s now accredited, full-time program with an intensified civil rights curriculum.

Johnson and Houston were bound and determined to train top-notch, world-class lawyers who would lead the fight against racial injustice. Among the seven graduates of Howard’s Law School in 1930 was a young man named Thurgood Marshall.

The rest, as they say, is history. Marshall would go on to lead the successful Brown v. Board of Education case that abolished legal segregation in public education in the United States. Eventually he became the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court.

Mordecai Wyatt Johnson and Charles Hamilton Houston were not the only ones to lead America toward the dismantling of institutional prejudice in the 20th century, but their unflagging strategic, visionary hopefulness contributed mightily to the transformation of American culture and the promise of American democracy for one and all.

Strategic, visionary hopefulness. This is what is required to make for greater “Racial Justice” for one and all.

— Bob Hill

(ALL YOU NEED IS MORE LOVE, Caroline Street Press, 2019)


Booked Up, Inc. - Larry McMurtry shop - Archer City 2015TOP RELIGIOUS BOOKS OF 2019
Compiled for airing on “Religion on the Line,” KCMO-710AM/203.7 FM, December 29, 2019 and January 6, 2020,
© 2019 and 2020, Bob Hill, Michael Zedek, & Bill Scholl

1) Scott Cairns, Anaphora: New Poems

2) Walter Fluker, ed., The Papers of Howard Washington Thurman: Volume 5: The Wider Ministry, January 1963–April 1981

3) Brian Doyle, One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder

4) Carolyn Forche, What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance

5) Deborah E. Lipstadt, Antisemitism: Here and Now

6) Paul Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation

7) Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

8) Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe

9) Jedediah Purdy, This Land Is Our Land: The Struggle for a New Commonwealth

10) Jeffrey Munroe, Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher

11) Amy-Jill Levine, Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent

12) Thomas Lynch, The Depositions: New and Selected Essays on Being and Ceasing to Be

13) Walter Brueggemann, A Glad Obedience: Why and What We Sing

14) Barbara Brown Taylor, Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others

15) Stephanie Paulsell, Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice

16) Serene Jones, Call It Grace: Finding Meaning in a Fractured World

17) Diana Butler Bass, Grateful: The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks

18) James Atwood, Collateral Damage: Changing the Conversation about Firearms and Faith

19) Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation

20) Bill McKibben, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

21) Timothy Egan, A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith

22) C. Christopher Smith, How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church

23) Amy-Jill Levine, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Denise Turu, Who Is My Neighbor?

24) Cara Gilger, ed., 99 Prayers Your Church Needs (But Doesn’t Know It Yet): Prayers for Unpredictable & Unusual Times

25) Gary S. Selby, Pursuing an Earthy Spirituality: C. S. Lewis and Incarnational Faith

26) Grant Wacker, One Soul at a Time: The Story of Billy Graham

27) Peter Enns, How the Bible Actually Works

28) Karen Armstrong, The Lost Art of Scripture: Rescuing the Sacred Texts

29) Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow

30) Sarah Bessey, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: A Story of Unlearning and Relearning God

31) Luke Powery, Were You There? Lenten Reflections on the Spirituals

32) Jennifer Berry Hawes, Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness

33) Lia McIntosh, Jasmine Smothers, Rodney Thomas Smothers, Blank Slate: Write Your Own Rules for a 22nd Century Church Movement

34) Jack Miles, Religion as We Know It: An Origin Story

35) Edward L. Greenstein, Job: A New Translation

36) Jacques Servais, ed., Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises: An Anthology

37) Karen Olsson, The Weil Conjectures: On Math and the Pursuit of the Unknown

38) Ronald H. Stone, Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1960s: Christian Realism for a Secular Age

39) Danny Gordis, We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel

40) Robert W. Lee, A Sin by Any Other Name: Reckoning with Racism and the Heritage of the South

41) Derek Penwell, Outlandish: An Unlikely Messiah, a Messy Ministry, and the Call to Mobilize

42) Helen Prejean, River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey

43) Geneva Blackmer, The Ecumenical and Interfaith History of Greater Kansas City

44) John Barton, A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book

45) Peter M. Wallace, Heart and Soul: The Emotions of Jesus

46) Rafael Medoff, The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Holocaust

47) Brad Lyons and Bruce Barkhauer, America’s Holy Ground: 61 Faithful Reflections on Our National Parks

48) Michael Kinnamon and Jan Linn, Disciples: Who We Are and What Holds us Together

49) Blanche E. Sosland, Banishing Bullying Behavior: A Call to Action: From Early Childhood Through Senior Adulthood

50) Catherine Meeks and Nibs Stroupe, Passionate for Justice: Ida B. Wells As Prophet for Our Time

Also Notable: Stephen Mitchell, Joseph and The Way of Forgiveness; Lenny Duncan, Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US; Jeffrey F. Keuss, Live the Questions: How Searching Shapes Our Convictions and Commitments; Thomas S. Kidd, Who Is an Evangelical?: The History of a Movement in Crisis; Jen Pollock Michel, Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of “And” in an Either-Or World; Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist ; Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, Let the Children Come: Reimagining Childhood from a Christian Perspective; Joan Chittister, The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage; David Zahl, Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It; Sarah Horwitz, Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life–in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There); Courtney Pace, Freedom Faith: The Womanist Vision of Prathia Hall; Bari Weiss, How to Fight Anti-Semitism; Gregory Blann; Netanel Miles-Yepez, When Oceans Merge: The Contemporary Sufi and Hasidic Teachings of Pir Vilayat Khan and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi; David M. Engelstad & Catherine A. Malotky, Carrying Them with Us: Living through Pregnancy or Infant Loss; Kate Bowler, The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities; William Willimon, Accidental Preacher: A Memoir

Thanks! AYNIML Book Launch

AYNIML - Dec. 23

Many thanks to everyone who has helped make the launching of my most recent book such a grand experience!!

It may be too late as a present for Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s too), but, as luck (and the calendar) would have it, it’s not too late as a Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, July 4th, Labor Day, or Thanksgiving gift, or even for a birthday or anniversary celebration!

To make arrangements for a signed copy, just PM me, or you can secure a copy through Amazon. (And if you’re a Prime member, the shipping is free!)