The U.S. civil rights movement was perhaps the most politically and symbolically important American social movement of the 20th century. And Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was a central text of the movement, and arguably one of the most important political texts of the century. Jonathan Rieder’s Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation offers a rich and sustained account of the role of King’s letter as a contribution to thinking about race and politics, religion and politics, civil disobedience, political ethics, and the struggle for social justice. This symposium brings together a range of political scientists to comment on Rieder’s book and on the importance of King’s “Letter” more generally, as a contribution both to U.S. political discourse and to political theory.
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