In the annals of African-American history, and specifically of historically black colleges and universities, there is indeed a proper noun known as the Morehouse Man. These men have included not only Dr. Thurman and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also Julian Bond, who died on Aug. 15; the director Spike Lee; the civil rights lawyer James Madison Nabrit Jr.; and innumerable politicians, scholars, scientists, ministers and executives.
With the fall of legal segregation and the emerging ethos of diversity, however, Morehouse has faced the challenge of supplying meaning and purpose to young black men who can choose any college in the country. The Parents’ Parting Ceremony, created in 1996, has answered the need with a mix of African music and dance, black Christian preaching and specific homage to Dr. Thurman’s liberation theology.
The elements add up to what the Rev. Dr. Peter G. Heltzel, a professor at New York Theological Seminary, has called “the Morehouse Gospel” ”” a belief system, as he put it in a recent essay, “characterized by a prophetic-mystical vision, a focus on racial justice and a commitment to nonviolent love.”