Published on March 4, 2021 by Sean Flynt
Jonathan Bass and the updated edition of his book
Samford University history professor Jonathan Bass is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, Blessed are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Jr., Eight white religious leaders and the "Letter from Birmingham Jail". An updated edition published by LSU Press in March includes a new epilogue by Bass, a new foreword by renowned religious historian Paul Harvey, and an afterword by Bass’s mentor, historian James C. Cobb.
King wrote his open letter after his 1963 arrest for participating in nonviolent protests in Birmingham. “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was a powerful response to the gradualist approach to civil rights as voiced by some white clergy. It is has become a classic text of the civil rights movement and is required reading for all Samford undergraduates, but Bass argues in his book that its literary appeal conceals a much more complex tale.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.