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Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63 Reprint Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0671687427
ISBN-10: 0671687425
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

S. & S. 1988. 1064p. bibliog. index. ISBN 0-671-46097-8. $24.95. hist An epic of black civil rights in postwar America centered on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Branch's narrative reaches back to King's forerunners in the Montgomery pulpit from which he led the 1955 bus boycott, then weaves in and out of King's path through the freedom rides, Ole Miss, Albany, Birmingham, and other episodes of the movement, closing this first of two volumes in November 1963. A graceful display of both the ironies and majesties of the past, it traces the historical axis joining the Kennedys' Washington to King's world of the black church and the Deep South. A tour de force of research and synthesis, richer than any extant King biography or civil rights history, this will be the measure of all books to come. BOMC main selection; see LJ' s "Best Books of 1988," p. 42. Robert F. Nardini, North Chichester, N.H.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.


David Levering Lewis The Philadelphia Inquirer Endlessly instructive and fascinating, thorough, stupendous. Now the source and standard in its field.

Robert C. Maynard The Washington Post Book World In remarkable, meticulous detail, Branch provides us with the most complex and unsentimental version of King and his times yet produced.

Richard John Neuhaus The Wall Street Journal A compelling story, masterfully told.

Jim Miller Newsweek A masterpiece ... remarkably revealing.... The past, miraculously, seems to spring back to life.

Garry Wills The New York Review of Books Already, in this chronicle, there is the material of Iliad after Iliad...There is no time in our history of which we can be more proud.

Robert Wilson USA Today Superb history.

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Product Details

  • Series: America in the King Years
  • Paperback: 1088 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (November 15, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671687425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671687427
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Wylie on March 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a book that truly merits the label "must reading." It played a role in changing my own thinking on politics and history when I first read it in the early 1990's. During my "College Republican" days, my view of Martin Luther King, Jr. was not especially favorable, and I was almost totally ignorant of the history and background of the civil rights movement. But after reading Taylor Branch's book, I could no longer shut my eyes to the hard truths to which he bears brilliant witness.
Martin Luther King is the central figure in Branch's narrative, but the book is much more than a biography, as befits its subtitle, "America in the King Years, 1954-63." For example, Branch begins his account with the stormy tenure of Vernon Johns as minister at Montgomery, AL's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church--at which church Johns was replaced by a young man still often known as "Mike" King. By broadening his account beyond King's own experiences, Branch accurately conveys how the civil rights movement was far more than just the activities of a few well-known leaders.
Branch's research would do credit to any professional historian. He conducted hundreds of interviews and worked with a vast amount of primary source material. His writing is compelling, repeatedly capturing the intensity of both public and private events. Even though the hardcover edition is over 900 pages, when I first read it I found it incredibly hard to put aside.
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Format: Paperback
Presenting an authentic and comprehensive picture of the mammoth civil rights movement in the United States in the post WWII era is a daunting task, yet noted author and journalist Taylor Branch has succeeded masterfully with this, the first of a two-volume history of the struggle of blacks in America to find justice, equality and parity with the mainstream white society. Tracing the rise of the singular leader personified in the young Rev. Martin Luther King, Branch sets the stage for a wide range of events, personalities, and public issues. This is truly a wonderful read, fascinating, entertaining, and endlessly detailed in its description of people and events, and quite insightful in its chronicling of the fortune of those social forces that created, sustained, and accomplished the single most momentous feat of meaningful social action in our nation's contemporary history.
His range of subjects is necessarily wide and deep, and we find coverage of every aspect of the tumultuous struggle beginning in the deep South, and gradually working its way north and west until most of the urban northeast also surrendered to the battle cry for civil rights and justice under the law. In many respects this borders on being a biography of Martin Luther King and his times, yet Branch so extends his coverage of the eddies and currents of the movement itself that it appears to be by far the most comprehensive and fair-minded treatment of the civil rights movement published to date. Whether covering the issue of Martin Luther King's own personal life, his internal philosophical concerns, or his appetite for young white women, the reader is engaged with every element of this and a thousand other personalities, issues, and events that carved out the history of our country for almost twenty years.
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By A Customer on June 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was bored by historical books. That was until I opened the first page of Taylor Branch's book. His ability to mix history, narrative and personal descriptions of the people involded in the civil rights movement made my reading extremely enjoyable, informative and captivating. At times I wad moved to tears and almost no book has had that effect on me so far. The book does not only focus on M.L. King himself and all the other characters involved made me feel part of a broader struggle for more humanity. It has been months since I read the book and my first impressions have remained as strong, I would advice it to anyone who wants to have fun, to be moved and learn at the same time. The civil rights movement is an essential part of history, you should read the book for your personal development, that is, development of your mind and of your heart. Just wonderful!
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Format: Paperback
In reading this book, you will believe in the power of prayer, bear witness to miracles, marvel at overlapping destinies, and give thanks for accidents of history. You also will be humbled and inspired by the spiritual life and public work of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Author Branch presents an enormous cast of characters and complicated interweaving storylines to tell the amazing story of the civil rights movement at a time when the country was struggling to integrate the moral momentum of WWII into a domestic reconciliation on race. By making King the main road through which all things pass, the huge story stays on track and remains a story of human, instead of political, dimensions.

King was a dreamer and a pragmatic strategist. But many of his most illuminating moments came from unexpected or desperate places such as his first movement speech in the early days of the Montgomery bus boycott or his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." Branch shows how the movement drew more power from epiphanies and spontaneous acts than it did from planned insurrections. That passion of the human spirit to right the world, as exemplified by Dr. King, frames this story.

Even though we all know the history of the boycotts, the sit-ins, the marches, the voter registration drives, and the Freedom Rides, Branch writes so forcefully and knowledgeably about the people, that it comes alive all over again. The outcome seems uncertain despite us knowing the ending which is what makes the stories in this book living history.
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