March 18, 2014, BY Kathryn Kopchik

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Jonathan Rieder will give the talk, "Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle that Changed a Nation," Wednesday, March 26, at 7 p.m. in Bucknell Hall at Bucknell University.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is part of the Griot Institute Series, "The Civil Rights Movement: Fifty Years Later."

A professor of sociology at Barnard College and a member of the graduate faculty at Columbia University, Rieder also has taught at Yale and Swarthmore.

He is the author of several books including The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King Jr. and Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn against Liberalism. He edited The Fractious Nation: Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life and was a cofounding editor of Common Quest: The Magazine of Black-Jewish Relations.

His latest work, Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation, was described by Booklist as "A sparkling reconsideration of the 'Letter' ... A slim volume that packs plenty of punch, Gospel of Freedom is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the civil rights movement, King, and America itself."

Rieder has been a regular commentator on TV and radio, a contributor to The New York Times Book Review, and a contributing editor for The New Republic. He has been a Member and a Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton

He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton, The Wilson Center, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies.

He is working on a book about the rise of contemporary crossover culture and the transformation of rhythm and blues into soul music.

The next event in the Griot Series is the film screening, Freedom Riders, on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center. Based on the book by Raymond Arsenault, the documentary offers an inside look at the band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South in 1961.

The Griot Series continues in April with a talk by author, poet and activist Sonia Sanchez on April 2; a talk by Ernest Green, a member of the Little Rock Nine, on April 9 (rescheduled from February due to winter weather); and a talk by human rights activist and former Black Panther member Kathleen Cleaver on April 16.

In addition, the Bertrand Library, in partnership with the Griot, will host the Freedom Riders exhibit April 16 through May 14.