March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her. Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project. To read all the blog posts so far, click here.
By Catherine Rennell
During National Reading Month, McLennan County Commissioner Pat Miller celebrates by revisiting her favorite book “Jesus and the Disinherited” by Howard Thurman.
Thurman, an author and activist of the early 20th century, wrote his 1949 book in response to the increase in segregation and racism in America. He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent protests and relied on his own Christian theology to provide a message of hope for marginalized African Americans.
“He introduces the life of Jesus in parallel to the African Americans existing in America to Jesus as a Jew existing under Roman authority,” Miller said.
Miller grew up in New York and moved to the South at 10 years old. She said she experienced the Civil Rights movement and segregation in Waco through the slow integration of teaching staff at private schools and later the students themselves at public schools. Miller experienced the harsh reality of American racism that Thurman writes about in his novel. But for Miller, Thurman provides a hopeful message that has inspired and comforted her ever since she read “Jesus and the Disinherited” for the first time.
“What impressed me most was that it was coming from a Christian perspective,” Miller said. “He addresses the question of how you can embrace Christianity in light of the reality of what is perceived to be the African American’s place in America.”
Miller said she relied on Thurman’s book for guidance when running for office and that it is the most important book to her at this point in her life as county commissioner.
“What I found myself having to do, when asking people for their vote,” Miller said, “is it made me really examine my faith in the Democratic system, and America being a place where everybody can be part of the American dream. I found myself relying more and more on some of the points he made in his book.”