Author talks on famed MLK 'Letter'
Belfast — This year marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's iconic “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the "I Have a Dream" speech and the March on Washington. In celebration of these historic events, Barnard College sociologist and author Jonathan Rieder will talk about his newest book, “Gospel of Freedom: The Struggle that Changed a Nation,” Friday, Aug. 16, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Left Bank Books, 109 Church St. The event is free and the entire community is welcome.
A highlight of the talk will be the chance to hear rare audiotapes of King speaking at church meetings in the spring and summer of 1963, in the months leading up to and following the March on Washington, as he struggled to launch a new movement for racial justice.
“Gospel of Freedom” opens on April 12, 1963 — Good Friday — when King was arrested in Birmingham, Ala., for violating a court injunction against marching in the city streets. His plan had been to instigate a nonviolent protest in an effort to integrate Birmingham's downtown stores. Alone in his cell, reading a local newspaper, King found a statement from eight "moderate" white clergy who had branded his protest untimely and labeled King himself an extremist. His "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was his impassioned rebuttal. It began as irate jottings on scraps of paper, but in its final form, smuggled out of the jail and made public four days after his arrest, the "Letter" was a masterpiece of moral argument.
“Gospel of Freedom” is Rieder's second book on King, the first being “ The Word of the Lord is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr.” In connection with the 50th anniversary of the "Letter," he has been featured in a New York Times profile, a New York Times op-ed piece, in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, on “All Things Considered,” on “The Tavis Smiley Show” and in church and academic venues across the country. He is a professor of sociology at Barnard College, Columbia University in New York, and taught previously at Swarthmore and Yale.
Seating is limited and reservations in advance are appreciated. For more information or to reserve signed copies of the new book, call Left Bank Books at 338-9009. The shop is open daily.
Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or email@example.com.