Marie F. Rodell served as Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s literary agent for the publication of his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. Inundated with offers to produce books and films about the Montgomery bus boycott, King hired Rodell and Joan Daves, Inc., in October 1957. Rodell corresponded with King regarding contract negotiations, editorial decisions, and publicity for Stride Toward Freedom.
Born in New York City on 31 January 1912, to Isadore and Elizabeth Freid, Rodell received her BA in 1932 from Vassar College. Following a nine-year career as associate editor in the Mystery Department at Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, Rodell launched her own literary agency with Joan Daves in 1948.
Extensive demands on King’s time made it difficult for him to make significant progress on his first book, however Rodell was adamant that the book be published by the fall of 1958. In a letter to King she conveyed her dissatisfaction with his lack of progress: ‘‘The fact that the first draft is still not completed is most disquieting to all of us’’ (Rodell, 13 March 1958). Despite much difficulty, Stride was publicly available by September 1958.
Rodell later became director of the Rachel Carson Trust for Living Environment. The author of three mystery novels, she was the founding secretary of the Mystery Writers of America. Rodell died in New York City in November 1975.
Advertisement for Stride Toward Freedom, August 1958, in Papers 4:466.
Daves to King, 18 October 1957, in Papers 4:286–287.
Rodell to King, 13 March 1958, MLKP-MBU.