By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Penn’s Annenberg School is hosting an event this evening marking the 50th anniversary of a landmark bit of communication, Martin Luther King Jr’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.
One of the featured speakers is Delaware County native Jonathan Rieder, Sociology Professor at Barnard College and author of a book on the Letter (called Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation). He says the Letter makes the case not only for civil rights in the South, but an ongoing battle against injustice anywhere.
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is perhaps his most famous, but an edited version is often presented.
“There’s a kind of tough aspect to the ‘I have a Dream’ that we generally in the popular celebration chosen not to dwell on and that really means the underlying them of the Letter and the Dream are the same. Ultimately the foundations of the old racial order in America cracked during that period and we set in motion the move toward the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Professor Rieder says the American Friends Service Committee, headquartered here, was the first to publish the letter.