The words of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech have become enshrined in US history. But after the end of King’s generation of leadership, what happened to the African American struggle for freedom? Like the ancient Israelites, the African American community has survived a four-hundred-year collective trauma. What will it take for them to reach the promised land that King foresaw―to be truly free at last? In this classic historical and cultural study, Carl Ellis offers an in-depth assessment of the state of African American freedom and dignity. Stressing how important it is for African Americans to reflect on their roots, he traces the growth of Black consciousness from the days of slavery to the 1990s, noting especially the contributions of King and Malcolm X. Ellis examines elements of Black culture and offers a distinct perspective on how God is active in culture more broadly. Free at Last? concludes with a call for new generations of “jazz theologians” and cultural prophets to revitalize the African American church and expand its cultural range. The book also includes a helpful glossary of people, events, and terms. Ellis writes, “It is my prayer that the principles contained in this book will play a role in building bridges of understanding and facilitating reconciliation where there has been alienation.” With a new preface by the author, this groundbreaking book is now available as part of the IVP Signature Collection.
Outside the Bible, Free at Last? has had the most influence upon my life, ministry, and identity. My twenty-five-year-old copy is wrinkled, tattered, and dog-eared on virtually every page. I reread it at least once a year and have counseled countless others to do the same. This book nourishes my soul and quickens me to action, which is why it has traveled with me to Uganda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, and back to these shores we call home. In Free at Last? Carl Ellis invites us to believe that we too might be a jazz theologian―one who can see the way to the Promised Land.
lead pastor at Colorado Community Church, author of Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith