CLF Celebrates Black History Month
Recognizing the contributions of Black Americans to the Religious Science and New Thought Movement.
Dr. Johnnie Colemon (1920-2014)
The Reverend Dr. Johnnie Colemon (known as the “First Lady of New Thought”) founded Christ Unity Temple, later Christ Universal Temple (a New Thought megachurch on Chicago’s south side), in 1956. She later designed, constructed, and moved into the current location on the 100-acre campus at 119th Street (named Rev. Johnnie Colemon Drive, in 1996) and Ashland Avenue in Chicago.
Dr. Colemon also founded several large organizations in the New Thought Movement Christian Community; and in 1974, she established an international organization of affiliated New Thought churches and study groups called the Universal Foundation for Better Living. She built five structures to spread the “Better Living” teachings, including three churches and two institutions of learning (Johnnie Colemon Institute and Johnnie Colemon Academy).
Her book, Open Your Mind and Be Healed is her remarkable personal story of the use of universal principles of healing. After being diagnosed with an incurable disease in 1952, Colemon enrolled in the Unity School of Christianity, where (like all Black students at the time) she could not live on campus, and for two years, she commuted 15 miles each way to the YWCA in Kansas City before the Unity campus was desegregated. In 1956, she became the third Black student ordained as a Unity Minister.
Colemon held the distinction of advancing the New Thought Movement, and she received the Minister of the Century Award from the International New Thought Alliance (INTA). She was also the recipient of numerous other honors, awards, and proclamations throughout her life.
Her civic duties included serving as Director of the Chicago Port Authority and Commissioner of the Chicago Transit Authority Oversight Committee.
Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon passed away on December 23, 2014, at the age of 94. Her leadership, vision, and love continue to have an impact on a global scale.
Sarah Flowers (1890-1972)
Sarah Flowers was prolific writer, publisher, metaphysician, frequent speaker, and teacher of the Science of Mind. She completed the major course of study at the Institute of Religious Science in Los Angeles in 1937, and in 1941, she published her first book of many books, “Common Sense and Its Application in Everyday Life.”
In 1942, she published “The Metaphysical Thesaurus and Metaphysical Dictionary,” which she described as the outgrowth of many years of experience in trying to explain metaphysical teachings and movements to the thousands who came to her for advice and guidance in proper living. In this book, she also included “The Chronological History of the Metaphysical Movement” to prove to the casual reader, as well as to the serious student, that the Metaphysical Movement was not a “flash-in-the-pan” but an acknowledged Movement which has stood the test of time.
Sarah Flowers truly believed that the study of Metaphysics as a Science and not as a Religion would lead one to a Higher and Better Life… because it is with words that we govern our lives.
She considered her most important work to be teaching Practitioners to use Metaphysical Treatment (what we know as Spiritual Mind Treatment) for all the problems that confront us today.
Dr. Barbara Lewis King (1930-2020)
Dr. Barbara Lewis King (affectionately called "Dr. Barbara") began following her dream of becoming a minister at Christ Universal Temple (Chicago) under the mentorship of the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon.
She founded Hillside International Truth Center, Inc., a New Thought healing ministry, that began with a prayer group of twelve in her home in 1971. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Hillside now has thousands of members and supporters worldwide.
In addition to being an ordained minister, Dr. Barbara (a native of Houston, Texas) was also a Social Work Administrator and Educator. She was the first non-psychiatrist Director of the Emory Mental Health Center, in Atlanta. She also served as Dean of Community Relations at Malcolm X College (Chicago); Instructor at Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta); and as Dean of Students at Spelman College, in Atlanta.
Dr. Barbara authored ten books and monographs, including the widely acclaimed “Transform Your Life.” She also hosted a television program, "A New Thought, A New Life." Her 2018 interview for The HistoryMakers is included in The HistoryMakers permanent digital collection at the Library of Congress.
Dr. Barbara participated in White House Conferences with Presidents Carter and Clinton, and throughout her professional life, she received numerous honors, awards, and recognitions. These include (among others): The Ernest Holmes Religious Science Award; The International New Thought Alliance (INTA) Life Achievement Award; and Unity’s The Light of God Expressing Award.
Dr. Barbara Lewis King created a legacy that continues to heal hearts and transform lives. When asked, she responded that she would like to be remembered: “For my personal commitment to touch someone’s life and help them to see their very special talent to be given to the world as only they can do.”
Dr. O. C. Smith (1932-2001)
Ocie Lee Smith, Jr., better known as O.C. Smith, was an American entertainer, humanitarian, and religious scholar. He is well known for his recording of “Little Green Apples,” which was number 2 on the Billboard Charts in 1968, selling over a million records. In 1969, he won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. He also traveled and sang with the Count Basie Band and others during those times. Throughout these years, O.C. Smith was always searching for something more.
In 1980, he and his wife, Robbie, attended a Science of Mind service at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. Although they both were raised in traditional Christianity, they realized that the Science of Mind reflected what they had felt in their hearts for years. After much research, O.C. knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life spreading the word that he had always known within himself.
In 1985, he completed his Religious Studies and became a Minister. He opened the City of Angels Church of Religious Science in Los Angeles, and that church grew by thousands over the years. O.C. and Robbie Smith also established the City of Angels Childrens’ Charities and Scholarship Foundation to promote their interest in the spiritual and educational development of young people. The City of Angels Foundation has helped and continues to help hundreds of young people graduate from colleges and universities all over the country.
CLF member, Rev. Fred Marrero, was ordained by Dr. O. C. Smith at the City of Angels Religious Science Church.
Howard Washington Thurman (1899-1981)
Howard Thurman was an American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, civil rights leader, and mystic. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. Thurman led the first Black delegation to meet with Mohandas Ghandi in India, and his theology of radical nonviolence influenced and shaped a generation of civil rights activists. Thurman was a key mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thurman was the Director of Religious Life, teaching philosophy and religion at Morehouse (his alma mater) and Spelman Colleges; and in 1932, he was selected as the first Dean of Rankin College at Howard University. In 1943, he co-founded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, in San Francisco—an interracial congregation intentionally designed to break through the barriers that separated people on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin. This was the first major interracial interfaith church in the United States. In 1953, Thurman was invited to Boston University where he was appointed the Dean of Marsh Chapel, becoming the first African American Dean at a predominantly white college or university. He served in that position until 1965. He also served on the faculty of Boston University School of Theology.
Howard Thurman was a prolific author, writing twenty books on theology, religion, and philosophy. His most famous work, Jesus and the Disinherited, deeply influenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, who was known to frequently carry a copy of this book in his pocket.
Paul Revere Williams (1894-1980)
Paul Revere Williams was the first Black Architect admitted to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), in 1923. He was later the first Black member to be inducted into the AIA’s College of Fellows, in 1957. Noted for his mastery of a variety of styles and building types, and for his influence on the architectural landscape of southern California, Williams was one of the foremost architects in Los Angeles.
In 1957, Ernest Holmes (a close friend and mentor) asked Williams to sketch an idea for a building. When Williams drew an elliptical circle, Holmes immediately liked the idea, saying that it was the perfect symbol for wholeness, unity, and the unending and all-inclusive power of love. This design by Williams is Founder’s Church of Religious Science (See below photos).
Williams designed more than 2,000 residences including homes for the elite of Hollywood’s golden age-- Frank Sinatra, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lon Chaney, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, among many others. In addition to homes, his portfolio includes city landmarks such as LAX Airport, L.A. County Courthouse, and the Beverly Hills Hotel. He also designed many sites of cultural and social significance in the African American community, including First A.M.E. Church of Los Angeles, Angelus Funeral Home, and the headquarters of the Black-owned Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company.