- 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: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63 Reprint Edition
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The first book of a formidable three-volume social history, Parting the Waters is more than just a biography of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the decade preceding his emergence as a national figure. Branch's thousand-page effort, which won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction, profiles the key players and events that helped shape the American social landscape following World War II but before the civil-rights movement of the 1960s reached its climax. The author then goes a step further, endeavoring to explain how the struggles evolved as they did by probing the influences of the main actors while discussing the manner in which events conspired to create fertile ground for change.
Timeline of a Trilogy
Taylor Branch's America in the King Years series is both a biography of Martin Luther King and a history of his age. No timeline can do justice to its wide cast of characters and its intricate web of incident, but here are some of the highlights, which might be useful as a scorecard to the trilogy's nearly 3,000 pages.
From Publishers Weekly
Pacifist theologian Reinhold Niebuhr influenced Martin Luther King Jr. more deeply than did Gandhi, according to Branch, whose 880-page chronicle shows the civil rights leader taking Billy Graham's evangelist crusades as his model for organizing mass meetings to attack segregation. Epic in scope, often startling in its judgments and revelations, this gripping narrative mingles biography and history as it moves from the founding in 1867 of the First Baptist Church in Alabama, where King's movement took hold, to John Kennedy's assassination. Branch, journalist and coauthor of Second Wind , provides disturbing glimpses of John Kennedy wavering over integration while manipulating King, and of Robert Kennedy, who authorized FBI wiretaps on King's home and offices. Ralph Abernathy, Bayard Rustin and other leaders are also here, though King holds center-stage for most of the narrative. This stirring, vivid tapestry is the first volume in Branch's America in the King Years. First serial to Washington Post Magazine; BOMC segmented main selection.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audible Audio Edition edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
One finds a very detailed of the Kennedy involvement in the movement, first as a purely political ploy to help to win the black vote in the extremely tight race for the Presidency in 1960, and then as an administration struggling to do what was right in the face of enormous social, political, and even economic opposition. Here too we find an absorbing account of how the FBI attempted to infiltrate and influence the movement, with J. Edgar Hoover's adroit political savvy and deep-seated racism causing great difficulty and a number of tribulations for the civil rights cause. The names and places and events described here are legion, and one gets the sense that anyone who had a conscience was involved, and many of the names mentioned later went on to greater accomplishment and further noteworthy contribution in their public lives and careers.
This, then, is a stupendous first volume of a wonderful two-volume history of the civil rights movement in the United States, and covers the period from the late 1950s when the first rumblings of the movement were sounded until just after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in November of 1963. The second volume picks up the thread thereafter, extending out through the Johnson years and including aspects of the coalescence of the movement with the Vietnam anti-war protest. This is a wonderful book, and one I would consider essential reading for anyone with an interest in American history in the 20th century. I highly recommend both books, and I hope you appreciate reading them as much as I did. Enjoy!
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.