Annenberg, Quaker group celebrate civil rights with “Gospel of Freedom” event 

PHILADELPHIA (April 8, 2013) - On the fiftieth anniversary of the Birmingham, AL, freedom struggle, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is proud to join Annenberg School for Communication in celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Speakers will reflect on Dr. King, the AFSC’s special relationship to the “Letter,” the black church's historic role in the fight for justice, and the timeless power of the “Letter’s” prophetic vision. The celebration takes place on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Annenberg School for Communication at 3620 Walnut Street, Room 110, at the University of Pennsylvania.

The event highlights the just published Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed A Nation by Professor Jonathan Rieder of Barnard College. His analysis of the King letter has been praised as a “vital book that gives the Birmingham letter its due as a piece of sacred literature in the long war against Jim Crow” and as a book “that beautifully captures the spirit of fierce but loving defiance that was key not just to (the letter) but all our efforts to transform America into a vital democracy.”     

A Quaker organization, the AFSC’s support for Dr. King began in 1956, after it learned of his astonishing Gandhian methods used in leading the Montgomery bus boycott.  AFSC organized his transformative trip to India, in 1959, and published the Birmingham letter, in which he spoke powerfully of the great freedoms rooted in our religious faith and national principles. This letter became so popular that the AFSC printed and distributed several hundred thousand copies in advance of the 1963 March on Washington, endorsed by AFSC's Board of Directors.

As a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, AFSC has the right to nominate a Nobel Peace candidate and it named Dr. King twice – in 1963 and 1964.   

Speakers on April 24 will include Rev. James S. Allen, Sr., DD, Pastor, Vine Memorial Baptist Church; Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, Senior Pastor, Bright Hope Baptist Church; Joyce Miller, for the AFSC; and Professor Rieder.