Letters to Martin: Meditations on Democracy in Black America (Hardcover)
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“You’ll find hope in these pages. ” —Jonathan Eig, author of Ali: A Life
Letters to Martin contains twelve meditations on contemporary political struggles for our oxygen-deprived society.
Evoking Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” these meditations, written in the form of letters to King, speak specifically to the many public issues we presently confront in the United States—economic inequality, freedom of assembly, police brutality, ongoing social class conflicts, and geopolitics. Award-winning author Randal Maurice Jelks invites readers to reflect on US history by centering on questions of democracy that we must grapple with as a society.
Hearkening to the era when James Baldwin, Dorothy Day, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Richard Wright used their writing to address the internal and external conflicts that the United States faced, this book is a contemporary revival of the literary tradition of meditative social analysis.
These meditations on democracy provide spiritual oxygen to help readers endure the struggles of rebranding, rebuilding, and reforming our democratic institutions so that we can all breathe.
About the Author
Randal Maurice Jelks is a professor, a documentary producer, and the author of African Americans in the Furniture City and Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement. Jelks has most recently written Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali. He was an executive producer of the documentary I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled. He currently teaches American Studies, African Studies, and African American Studies at the University of Kansas.
“You’ll find hope in these pages. You’ll find power and prayer. You’ll find bittersweet beauty. You’ll find a wise man and a hero in a conversation that offers the promise of a more just world. Letters to Martin is a compelling and thoroughly enlightening read.” —Jonathan Eig, Ali: A Life
“Randal Maurice Jelks challenges us to think of democracy not just as a set of procedural rules but as a deeper matter of our innermost being. Letters to Martin offers guidance, both personal and political, on how we desire to live and how we accord inviolable respect to one another in this age of anti-democratic, disrespectful politics. Letters to Martin is filled with hopeful, intimate, and life-changing meditations on our times and our calling.” —Serene Jones, president, Union Theological Seminary
"Dr. Randal Jelks's Letters to Martin is a profound meditation on democracy, spirituality, and history. A specialist in the history of the civil rights movement and the intellectual history of spirituality, Dr. Jelks engages the work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a deep and revealing examination of the meaning of democracy, ultimately centering it in the experiences of Black Americans. This is a lyrical book of hope and praise that is nonetheless unflinching in its honesty and compelling in its assessments." —Heather Cox Richardson, author of How the South Won the Civil War
"Randal Jelks's Letters to Martin is an informative, at times angry, and at times moving—even loving—collection of epistolary essays addressed to the political colossus of twentieth-century America, Martin Luther King Jr. Here is a biting, uncompromising rebuke of racist America that still expresses faith in our troubled nation and what it can be." —Gerald L. Early, author of A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports
"Offering a beautiful meditation on freedom of the self and self-governance as sacred realities, Jelks communes with Martin Luther King Jr., capturing in compelling detail how King's moral and political vision remains still vital as a guide for the transformative work that falls to us to do." —Danielle S. Allen, author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality
“Through Dr. Jelks’s deeply personal and beautifully written prose, we view King’s legacy as part and parcel of the collective struggle and moral ingenuity of Black people, and in doing so, we are inspired and empowered to meet our current racial travails head on.” —Melanye T. Price, author of The Race Whisperer and Dreaming Blackness
"A probing and expansive meditation on America’s fitful progress toward racial equality." — Publishers Weekly