Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the Letter from Birmingham Jail

Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the Letter from Birmingham Jail

5.0 1
by S. Jonathan Jonathan Bass, Martin Luther King
     
 

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is arguably the most important written document of the civil rights protest era and a widely read modern literary classic. Personally addressed to eight white Birmingham clergy who sought to avoid violence by publicly discouraging King's civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, the nationally published "Letter"… See more details below

Overview

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is arguably the most important written document of the civil rights protest era and a widely read modern literary classic. Personally addressed to eight white Birmingham clergy who sought to avoid violence by publicly discouraging King's civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, the nationally published "Letter" captured the essence of the struggle for racial equality and provided a blistering critique of the gradualist approach to racial justice. The "Letter" soon became part of American folklore, and the image of King penning his epistle from a prison cell remains among the most moving of the era. Yet, as S. Jonathan Bass explains in the first comprehensive history of King's "Letter," this image and the piece's literary appeal conceal a much more complex tale.

Here is the story of how King and his associates carefully planned, composed, edited, and distributed the "Letter" as a public relations document; of the media's enthusiastic response to it; and of this single document's immense impact on the civil rights movement, the eight white clergy, and the American public. As Bass goes beyond shallow headlines and popular myths to uncover the true story behind the letter, Martin Luther King Jr. emerges as a pragmatist who skillfully used the mass media in his efforts to end racial injustice.

In separate biographies of each of the eight ministers, Bass investigates the backgrounds, individual reactions to the "Letter," and subsequent careers of the men who were vilified as misguided opponents of Martin Luther King. Understanding their viewpoints and examining their lives reveals much about the role of the church and the synagogue during the civil rights era. Although they agreed on a few moral and ethical principles and signed joint public statements, the eight clergy had conflicting and often evolving ideas about civil rights and race relations, just like most southerners. Though chided in the "Letter," most of the eight ministers, Bass explains, shared King's goals of racial justice, but disagreed with him on how best to achieve them-a position in line with most mainstream religious and political leaders of the time.

In demonstrating how the racial dilemma trapped self-styled gradualists and moderates between integrationists and segregationists, Blessed Are the Peacemakers clearly exposes the complexity of southern race relations in the turbulent decades of the 1950s and 1960s.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807126554
Publisher:
Louisiana State University Press
Publication date:
03/28/2001
Pages:
322
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.17(d)

What People are saying about this

E. Culpepper Clark
Jonathan Bass has produced the first full account of Dr. King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and combines the disciplines of history, religion, and journalism to show its mediated context. For the first time, we get a look at the complex elements of the 'Letter's' production and a substantive challenge to the lore that surrounds its creation. In this superbly crafted account, King's role is not diminished, but is explained.
— (E. Culpepper Clark, author of The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation's Last Stand at the University of Alabama)
Dan T. Carter
In Blessed Are the Peacemakers, Jonathan Bass offers new insights into the civil rights struggles of the 1960s by subtly illuminating the complex motives and differing perspectives of the eight 'moderate' Birmingham religious leaders condemned by Martin Luther King Jr. in his 'Letter from Birmingham Jail.
— (Dan T. Carter, author of The Politics of Rage: George Wallace, the Origins of the New Conservatism, and the Transformation of American Politics)

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >