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Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the "Letters from Birmingham Jail" Paperback – December 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0807128008 ISBN-10: 0807128007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Lsu Press (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807128007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807128008
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

S. Jonathan Bass is assistant professor of history at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By George M Hale on June 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
It was just a letter written by a man in jail, on behalf of his race, attempting to address the social injustice of the time-right? Wrong! Martin Luther King's Letter From the Birmingham Jail is much more compelling, and the circumstances surrounding its final composition more complex than the average person knows. Ostensibly written to the eight white clergymen of the embittered and embattled steel city, it was intended for a much wider audience-namely the media and the American public. Blessed Are the Peacemakers provides the reader with individual profiles of the eight and their struggles of conscience as they saw an old social order collapse. What has been taken as the almost spur-of-the-moment reflections of Martin Luther King, in jail for civil disobedience, turns out to be a document much longer in the making and more calculated in its delivery. This disclosure in no way detracts from its rightful place in American folklore or its power in fueling Civil Rights Movement. Rather, it helps us understand the care with which the deep conviction of racial rights was presented. The book is not an apology for the eight clergy, some of whom were more progressive than others, but it does provide much needed insight for the serious student of history into the complex struggles, powerful emotions, and vitrolic attacks perpetrated on even the most moderate voices of the white clergy. What it does not do, of course, is speak of the many white clergy of lesser rank who paid a much higher price for their fight for justice for their black brothers and sisters. Still, to read about these eight leaders, (Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Jewish) and their struggles is instructive.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jon S. Webster on February 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This story of the 8 pastors who rec'd Martin Luther King Jr's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" is not only accurate and complete, but is written with sensitivity, skill and passion. The events of those days give Birmingham fair claim to being the City that Changed the World. But it did not come easy. An important book, and an engaging read.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Fred W Hood on January 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
All who lived during those momentous years of Southern turmoil of 1960's were greatly impacted by the laws of desegregation of the white churches and schools. As one renews his/her commitment to religious and social justice, it brings into focus our recent tragedies of Ruwanda, Iraq, Thailand, and Indonesia! Upon my own return to Professor Bass's BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, I easily conjure up my perennial pictures of his accounts of eight white Ministers, their churches and families being turned inside/out or upside/down by Southern racial injustice.

In Bass's easy reading, documented, and dramatically illustrated account of eight white ministers' appeal for law, order, common sense, before and after the reception of MLK Jr's, "Letter From Birmingham Jail," I was transported back to 1963; Into mid-1965 when Earl Stallings became both my Pastor and my Good Friend! In spite of persistent segregationist pressure, not once did Earl consider turning black vsitors away from First Baptist Church of Birmingham. "If the people came to worship," Stallings wrote days after the incident "we had no Christian justification for closing our doors...if they came to provoke an incident, we were determined to have no part in this action."

Since 1954 the FBC maintained an open-door policy for any black visitors. From an early distinguished Pastor J T Ford, followed by Guy Sloan and Grady Cothen and Earl Stallings they reaffirmed that policy! Yet on the morning after they welcomed the first black visitors, newspapers all over the country printed large photographs of a cheerful Earl Stallings shaking hands with the black visitors. They included both the NEW YORK TIMES and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution!

From my perspective or from Prof.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Carpenter on March 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jonathan Bass devoted an enormous amount of time in writing Blessed Are the Peacemakers, and it is the fullest and most accurate account of the events around The Letter from Birmingham Jail and the eight clergymen it was addressed to. It also gives an accurate picture of the eight men, rather than an erroneous picture that is seen is so many of the comments about them. For example few know that Episcopal Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter was chosen to be chairman of the integrated Citizens Advisory Committee that was part of the settlement Accord between Birmingham business leaders and the leaders of the Civil Rights campaign. Of the eight men addressed by King, there has been only one autobiography written. It is of Bishop Carpenter and can be seen at [...]. - Douglas M. Carpenter
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Format: Paperback
I lived elsewhere in the South during the sad events of Birmingham 1963. My prior knowledge was based on intense interest in the TV and print news of that time, and a recent trip to Birmingham for a 50th anniversary commemoration. Prof. Bass shows that we saw and heard only a shallow reporting of those events.

The 8 bishops, ministers, and rabbi to whom Dr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail was addressed were among the dozen clergy in the city who publicly castigated Gov. George Wallace for his pro-segregation bluster. They suffered numerous nighttime phone call threats to their families and churches, as well as congregations cleaved by furious minorities of ardent segregationist congregants. Most lost their pulpits over the following two years, despite evidence that a majority of moderate congregants supported each minister.

Those of us living outside Alabama in 1963 were not informed of the most significant point -- that the virulent local political leader Bull Conner had his elected office eliminated by a city referendum, and lost to a moderate in a subsequent mayoral election. The nation believed Bull Connor and his vicious police dogs and fire hoses and dank jail cells were popularly supported -- not that he had just lost two elections to moderates. He remained in office a few months during a losing lawsuit to save the original office.

The 8 ministers suggested that Dr. King postpone his demonstrations to permit the moderate new mayor and city council time to prove whether they would make serious progress on desegregation.

The 1963 Civil Rights demonstrations were timed to occur just after the two elections so as not to throw them to Mr. Connor, but before Connor was removed by the court.
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