Gospel of Freedom


Gospel cover imageGospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation

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“A brilliant new reading of ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’ . . . an indispensable guide to one of the most important documents of the twentieth century.” Daniel T. Rodgers, the Lea Professor of History, Princeton University, author of Age of Fracture

“Rieder beautifully captures the spirit of fierce but loving defiance that was key not just to Martin’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ but all our efforts to transform America into a vital democracy.” Ambassador Andrew Young

Beautifully written and deeply illuminating.” Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History,
Yale University

“[Gospel of Freedom] plumbs the depth of the spirituality out of which [Dr. King’s]  leadership came . . .Thank you so very much for what you’ve done.”Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Harry Emerson Fosdick Distinguished Professor, Union Theological Seminary:

“Jonathan Rieder’s extraordinary analysis establishes the ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ as the most important document of the 20th century. For anyone interested in justice, Gospel of Freedom is a must-read.” Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, former chief of staff to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ has been long overshadowed by Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Now Jonathan Rieder has written a vital book that gives the Birmingham letter its due as a piece of sacred literature in the long war against Jim Crow. A compelling book.” Jon Meacham

“Simply a masterpiece. Jonathan Rieder brilliantly resurrects King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ for the post-civil rights generation. He passionately weaves colorful history, elegant prose, and King’s timeless words to inspire a new generation of freedom fighters and prophets.”Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, Senior Pastor, Bright Hope Baptist Church

“Eloquent and prophetic. Rieder does for our uniquely American saint’s ‘Letter’ what St. Augustine did for the Letters of St. Paul. Part commentary, part homily, part exhortation to the faithful, Gospel of Freedom reminds us of ‘the fierce urgency of now.’” Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, , Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary

“With freedom songs and racist chants rising off the pages like steam from summer streets, Jonathan Rieder’s stirring stage-setting for King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ brims with passion, rage, and fragile hope.” Melissa Fay Greene, Praying for Sheetrock and The Temple Bombing

“An extraordinary book.  . . . No serious student of the African American freedom struggle can afford to overlook this volume.” Raymond Arsenault, author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

“A sparkling reconsideration of the letter…. Rieder’s trenchant comments approach the letter on historical and literary grounds but also as a way to better understand the often elusive King…. A slim volume that packs plenty of punch, Gospel of Freedom is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the civil rights movement, King, and America itself.”June Sawyers, Booklist (starred review)

“Brilliant . . . “San Antonio Express News

“Rieder boldly hoists before us a more nearly complete Martin Luther King Jr. whose profound appeals to nonviolence were balanced by equally aggressive calls to resist the spiritual corruption and institutionalized racism of American society.”Edward Gilbreath, The Christian Century

“Deeply informed by his knowledge of King’s speeches and other writings, Rieder’s meticulous reading of the ‘Letter’ is invigorating.”The New Republic

“Gospel of Freedom is an inspired work that belongs in every English-language library. . . a host of illuminating revelations. . . King’s brilliance and humanity flame bright in this powerful book work treasuring.”⎯Charles Shea Lemone, The Roanoke Times

“[Gospel of Freedom] opens another fascinating dimension, grinding an interesting historical lens through which to view King’s later speeches and writings.”The Wichita Eagle

“A fresh perspective on Dr. King’s message … By analyzing the ‘Letter’ as both literature and moral imperative, Rieder adds to his subject’s considerable legacy.”Kirkus Reviews

“Rieder’s middle chapters include richly detailed interpretations revealing King’s brilliance as an advocate for equality. He portrays King the diplomat as a patient teacher who later transformed into a raging Old Testament prophet who forcefully condemned racism. VERDICT This book’s significance lies in its interpretation of the letter, which was itself published later in 1963, and its insights into the often inscrutable King.”—Karl Helicher, Library Journal