Parting the Waters

Parting the WatersFirst Of A Volume Social History, Parting The Waters Is Than A Biography Of The Rev Martin Luther King Jr During The Decade Preceding His Emergence As A National Figure This Page Effort, Which Won The Pulitzer Prize As Well As The National Book Critics Circle Award For General Nonfiction, Profiles The Key Players Events That Helped Shape The American Social Landscape Following WWII But Before The Civil Rights Movement Of The S Reached Its Climax Branch 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 Also Analyzing The Beginnings Of Black Self Consciousness, This Book Maps The Structure Of Segregation Bigotry In America Between The Author Considers The Constantly Changing Behavior Of Those In Washington With Regard To The Injustice Of Offical Racism Operating In Many States At This TimeForerunner Vernon Johns Rockefeller And Ebenezer Niebuhr And The Pool TablesFirst Trombone The Montgomery Bus BoycottA Taste Of The World The Quickening Shades Of PoliticsA Pawn Of HistoryThe Kennedy TransitionBaptism On Wheels The Summer Of Freedom RidesMoses In McComb, King In Kansas City Almost Christmas In Albany Hoover S Triangle And King S MachineThe Fireman S Last Reprieve The Fall Of Ole MissTo Birmingham Greenwood And Birmingham JailThe Children S Miracle Firestorm The March On Washington Crossing Over Nightmares And Dreams

Taylor Branch is an American author and historian best known for his award winning trilogy of books chronicling the life of Martin Luther King, Jr and some of the history of the American civil rights movement The third and final volume of the 2,912 page trilogy collectively called America in the King Years was released in January 2006 Branch lives in Balti, Maryland, with his wife, Chri

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  • Paperback
  • 1062 pages
  • Parting the Waters
  • Taylor Branch
  • English
  • 13 October 2017
  • 9780333529454

10 thoughts on “Parting the Waters

  1. says:

    This is simply an unparalleled work of history that makes one appreciate and understand the civil rights movement in a way no other work can It consistently astounds and amazes, which is itself impressive for a tale so often told.To tell the truth, I ve never been very interested in the classical civil rights movement, the one we read about in all the US history textbooks, from the Birmingham bus boycott of 1955 up through the march to Selma in 1965 I thought it was perhaps the most important event in 20th century US history, sure, but the stark dichotomy of it all, with a saintly Martin Luther King and the non violent movement arrayed against a host of bigoted Southern sheriffs, seemed almost too pat and too obvious a morality play It seemed like a victory so obvious, with the moral standing of the two sides so clear, that there was nothing to wonder or debate about This book can t help but blow those ideas out of the water For one, it shows how impossible the civil rights movement seemed, even right up until 1963 The fact that Southern blacks were being murdered and beaten for trying to vote didn t make it into the nation s newspapers, barely garnered a discussion in congressional or presidential contests, and seemed almost natural to most Americans, who were than happy to ignore the issue in any case The system of oppression was so tight, in fact, that many thought the low voter turnout among blacks in the South, and segregation generally, was just a kind of mutual accommodation made by the two races in the South Only with the 1963 marches to the courthouse and downtown department stores in Birmingham did the movement really attract national attention, and lead to a wave of other protests and finally the beginnings of a presidential response by Kennedy Before, even sympathetic Northern papers and commentators wondered about the morality of sit ins at segregated stores, marches that were designed to get people arrested, and boycotts generally Even if many were sympathetic, many also thought that the methods the civil rights movement used were questionable at best And the methods are what this book is all about It constantly reminds me of the old saying that good generals study strategy while great generals study logistics This book shows the mind numbing complexity of organizing these movements, from gathering money for bail always, always, raising money for bail , to keeping marching formation, to keeping the appropriate number of waves of protesters to overload southern jails, to trying to coordinate with federal marshals or prosecutors to protect the defenseless people who insisted on protesting even when everyone counseled caution It s hard to remember that even King himself, after the sit in movement started in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960, was worried about the morality of getting himself arrested, as opposed to just boycotting At all times everyone in the movement was subject to merciless beatings or murder This book, told with the help of countless interviews with the main participants, makes one feel that immediacy and courage of the movement in a way I ve never imagined before I can t recommend it enough.

  2. says:

    This book is the first of three volumes that comprise America in the King Years, a history of the civil rights movement by Taylor Branch which he wrote between 1982 and 2006 The three individual volumes have won a variety of awards, including the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for History This book covers the history of the civil rights movement between the years of 1954 to 1963.This book has over a thousand pages, so I need to confess that I listened to an abridged audio version that is about 6.5 hours long This is probably 20% of the unabridged length I didn t realize I had listened to the abridged version until I went to the library to borrow the paper copy and discovered it was two inches thick The quotations contained in this review are taken from the unabridged book.One of my motivations for selecting this book was to learn about the context in which the Letter from Birmingham Jail was written Great Books KC, a book group I belong to, is going to discuss this letter on January 30, and in preparation for that I listened to this book in order to learn about the historical situation in which Martin Luther King wrote Letter from Birmingham Jail Below is an extended excerpt from this book in which the writing of the letter is discussed This excerpt follows descriptions of how criticism of the Birmingham campaign was coming from many sources including some people traditionally sympathetic to the cause Time Magazine called it a poorly timed protest To many Birmingham Negroes, King s drive inflamed tensions at a time when the city seemed to be making some progress, however small, in race relations Many others voiced criticism as well, but what really motivated King to begin writing was a letter published in the Birmingham paper signed by eight local clergymen that asked him to end the protest marches Begin excerpt from Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch p.737 740 __________________King read these press reactions as fast as Clarence Jones could smuggle newspapers into his cell They caused him the utmost dismay, especially since a diverse assortment of friends and enemies were using the same critical phrases almost interchangeably King could have addressed his Letter from Birmingham Jail to almost any of these to Mayor Boutwell or Burke Marshall or A.G Gaston, to the Birmingham News or The New York Times. He gave no thought to secular targets, however, after he saw page 2 of the April 13 Birmingham News. There, beneath two photographs of him and Abernathy on their Good Friday march to jail, appeared a story headlined White Clergymen Urge Local Negroes to Withdraw from Demonstrations After attacking the Birmingham demonstrations as unwise and untimely, and commending the news media and the police for the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled, the clergymen invoked their religious authority against civil disobedience Just as we formerly pointed out that hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions, they wrote, we also point out that such actions as incite hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham The thirteen short paragraphs transfixed King He was being rebuked on his own chosen ground And these were liberal clergymen Most of them had risked their reputations by criticizing Governor Wallace s Segregation Forever inauguration speech in January They were among the minority of white preachers who of late had admitted Andrew Young and other Negroes to specially roped off areas of their Sunday congregations Yet to King, these preachers never had risked themselves for true morality through all the years when Shuttlesworth was being bombed, stabbed, and arrested, and even now could not make themselves state forthrightly what was just Instead, they stood behind the injunction and the jailers to dismiss his spirit along with his body King could not let it go He sat down and began scribbling around the margins of the newspaper Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas, he began.By the time Clarence Jones visited the jail again that Tuesday, King had pushed a wandering skein of ink into every vacant corner He surprised Jones by pulling the newspaper surreptitiously out of his shirt I m writing this letter, he said I want you to try to get it out, if you can To Jones, the letter was an indistinct jumble of biblical phrases wrapped around pest control ads and garden club news He regarded the surprise as a distraction from the stack of urgent business he had brought with him legal questions about King s upcoming criminal trials, plus money problems, Belafonte and Kennedy reports, and a host of movement grievances assembled by Walker Waving these away, King spend most of the visit showing a nonplussed Jones how to follow the arrows and loops from dead ends to new starts I m not finished yet, King said He borrowed a number of sheets of note paper from Jones, who left with a concealed newspaper and precious few answers for those awaiting King s dispositions at the Gaston Motel.King wrote several scattered passages in response to the criticism that his demonstrations were untimely He told the white clergymen that time is neutral, that waiting never produced inevitable progress, and that we must use time creatively, and forever realized that the time is always ripe to do right He feared that the people of ill will have used time much effectively than the people of good will, and pointed out that Negroes already had waited than three hundred years for justice I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, Wait Then, in a sentence of than three hundred words, he tried to convey to the white preachers a feeling of time built upon a different alignment of emotions But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading white and colored when your first name becomes nigger, your middle name becomes boy however old you are and your last name becomes John, and your wife and mother are never given the respected title Mrs when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.King assumed a multitude of perspectives, often changing voice from one phrase to the next He expressed empathy with the lives of millions over eons, and with the life of a particular child at a single moment He tried to look not only at white preachers through the eyes of Negroes, but also at Negroes through the eyes of white preachers The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations So let him march sometime, let him have his prayer pilgrimages To the white preachers, he presented himself variously as a haunted, suffering Negro What else is there to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers , a pontificator Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere , a supplicant I Hope, sirs, you can understand , and a fellow bigshot If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else He spoke also as a teacher How does one determine when a law is just or unjust To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality Let me give another explanation And he spoke as a gracious fellow student, seeking common ground You are exactly right in your call for negotiation I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue By degrees, King established a kind of universal voice, beyond time, beyond race As both humble prisoner and mighty prophet, as father, harried traveler, and cornered leader, he projected a character of nearly unassailable breadth when he reached the heart of his case, he adopted an authentic tone of intimacy toward the very targets of his wrath toward men who had condemned him without mentioning his name Almost whispering on the page, he presented his most scathing accusations as a confession I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen s Council er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is devoted to order than to justice who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice who constantly says I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man s freedom.Back at the Gaston Motel, deciphering what he called King s chicken scratch handwriting, Wyatt Walker became visibly excited by these passages His cup has really run over with those white preachers Walker exclaimed Long frustrated by what seemed to him King s excessive forbearance, Walker thrilled to see such stinging wrath let loose He knew that the history of the early Christian church made jail the appropriate setting for spiritual judgments that buried within most religious Americans was an inchoate belief in persecuted spirituality as the natural price of their faith Here was the early church reincarnate, with King rebuking the empire for its hatred, for its fearful defense of worldly attachments For this, Walker put aside his clipboard Long into the night, he dictated King s words to his secretary for typing.The following link is a quotation from this book about the young Martin Luther King changing his name

  3. says:

    I first read this book years ago and was so impressed that I put it on the shelf to read again In the meantime, I discovered that this is only the first of three books Taylor Branch has written on the Civil Rights struggle and this time I intend to take them all in.From any perspective, Parting of the Waters is a masterpiece Branch doesn t let a person come into the story without a lively introduction including the character traits that will help the reader keep track of one person among so many that stand out during the years described This book is encompassed by the life of Vernon Johns Who I couldn t begin to describe him, you should find out for yourself.Branch includes just enough information on the events outside of the Civil Rights Movement to place what happens within parts of history that every American alive at the time would recall, from Cold War incidents to popular songs.But his ability to draw vivid pictures of people interacting, in concord or conflict, while giving a respectful account of each makes this book come to life in a way I ve never seen equaled by any other historian I was enthralled.Though M.L King, Jr is the central figure, the book is truly the story of America in the King Years described in the subtitle Branch is not an acolyte or a judge He presents King and everyone else with their flaws along with their virtues in a way that left me feeling I was an intimate friend of those I read about listening to them voice their doubts, fears and even hatreds along with their hopes, aspirations and ideals No incident is too insignificant if it helps us understand the nature of personal relationships King was an intellectual, so of course we get a capsule summary of the thoughts of Reinhold Niebuhr in shaping King s thoughts This book has it all.This eye of God manner of writing can only be successful if the writer s knowledge is both wide ranging and comprehensive The writing must illuminate and follow themes drawn from what would otherwise be a bewildering flood of information At no time in the 900 pages was I lost Rather I could feel the building momentum, the excitement of the successes when they came and the humbling, depressing moments when all seemed lost.So vivid is Branch s prose that I was deeply moved when he painted the scene of a huge crowd gathered at night, overflowing into the street between two black churches where singing from one sanctuary was answered with a response from another The electric mix of excitement and hope put such a lump in my throat that I had to pause in my reading to let my awe subside What it would have been like to be there Branch often takes a few paragraphs to deconstruct events in the light of personality conflicts and dilemmas faced by individuals that tell the reader so much about the stresses and seemingly insurmountable problems that arrived continually How to keep the movement s going when public interest would lag What was the relationship of the Southern Christian Leadership Council to the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee and the NAACP What was going on in the Kennedy administration far behind what the press could see One is taken so deep inside these groups that the press of egos and the limitations on what people can do becomes clear along with the impressive possibilities there to exploit if only they can be seen through the chaotic march of events Is it any wonder that many prayed help me Lord in the mix of bureaucracy, uncertainty, and grave danger You ll end the book with a strong impression of what an amazing period it was and what remarkable acts came forth from King and so many others King was by no means the director of events, only the most prominent spokesman for so many who had had enough The time was right and the man, men and women came along to match it We know human beings can hate easily, but when you consider the feats of courage and determination we are capable of, it takes your breath away The uneasiness felt in the presence of injustice should be a prompt to all of us that we can act beyond expectations, transcending comfort and convenience to find our greatest possibility but it won t be easy The humanity revealed in Parting of the Waters easily makes it one of the best books I have ever read, I can t think of one powerful.

  4. says:

    A monumental history of America and the Civil Rights movement Superlatives abound It is amazing how Mr Branch can go from the top King, Kennedy, Hoover to people at the very roots of the Civil Rights movement Rosa Parks, John Lewis, William Moore, Louis Allen The cast of characters who made things happen and broke down barriers is astonishing.Dr King is portrayed as a man of moral fibre who knew what was wrong and right in society and deeply tolerant of other people s shortcomings particularly his segregationist adversaries King never preached or condoned hate.The Kennedy s are seen as blowing alternately hot and cold for the Civil Rights movement Both would speak emotionally and persuasively of human equality but back off from passing the essential legislation Between the Kennedy s and King stood the evil silent presence of J Edgar Hoover surely one of the most ominous and manipulative man in 20th century American history Hoover s F.B.I fiefdom was used to pulling power strings in Washington The word communist was used on anyone who was Hoover s adversary Hoover used sex as a way to pull the strings of the Kennedy s who were responsible for first setting up wiretaps on Martin Luther King s advisor Stanley Levison and ultimately on Dr King himself.Mr Branch is equally eloquent when outlining the vicious segregationist violence in the Southern States Robert Moses is an oasis of reason and calm in a sea of senseless hostility He was part of a group educating and attempting to empower Mississippi blacks to register to vote.King is also seen as a troubled man, unsure of the next step sensing that sometimes he was taking the easy way by going on speaking tours and avoiding decisions on whether to march, to go to jail, to post bail King never made money from Civil Rights except for buying good clothes he did not accumulate wealth He was underestimated by his opponents the federal and state governments who did not see King as understanding the vicissitudes of power But they did not realize that growing up in the Baptist preacher organization gave him an understanding of how to manoeuvre and manipulate men and women in power.This is truly a required book for understanding those tumultuous years of America history It is the first volume of three It is great reading.

  5. says:

    One of the white men in the audience walked to the stage and lashed out with his right fist The blow made a loud popping sound as it landed on King s left cheek He staggered backward and spun half around The entire crowd observed in silent, addled awe Some people thought King had been introducing the man as one of the white dignitaries so conspicuously welcome at Birmingham s first fully integrated convention Others thought the attack might be a staged demonstration from the nonviolence workshops But now the man was hitting King again, this time on the side of his face from behind, and twice in the back Shrieks and gasps went up from the crowd, which, as one delegate wrote, surged for a moment as one person toward the stage People recalled feeling physically jolted by the force of the violence from both the attack on King and the flash of hatred through the auditorium The assailant slowed rather than quickened the pace of his blows, expecting, as he said later, to be torn to pieces by the crowd But he struck powerfully After being knocked backward by one of the last blows, King turned to face him while dropping his hands It was the look on his face that many would not forget Septima Clark, who nursed many private complaints about the strutting ways of the SCLC preachers and would not have been shocked to see the unloosed rage of an exalted leader, marveled instead at King s transcendent calm King dropped his hands like a newborn baby she said, and from then on she never doubted that his nonviolence was than the heat of his oratory or the result of his slow calculation It was the response of his quickest instincts The 1950 s and 60 s were a violent and transformative era for American race relations Segregation ruled the land and many Black Americans felt powerless to do anything to make a dent in it lest the the smoldering currents of racial violence be unleashed against them This is not to say that groups like the NAACP for example were not making progress, as they were, but their aim was to achieve equality through the courts As with examples such as school integration, this was a lengthy and difficult process that often saw rare legal victories simply disregarded by recalcitrant states who simply ignored court rulings or simply shut down all the schools in a county rather than see them integrated This book follows the rise of Martin Luther King and his impatience with the glacial progress of the NAACP and his calls to direct action From the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom Rides, Birmingham, to finally the March on Washington, it is all written here in incredibly vivid detail There were times when reading this book where the hate of White Mississippians permeated my bones as they dragged young men and women from buses and brutally assaulted them There were times when I could almost hear the voice of Bull Connor as he unleashed dogs and fire hoses on men, women and children There were times as Martin Luther King went into his final refrain of his I Have a Dream Speech that I could feel the hope of the crowd and the anticipation that a new day had truly arrived It s truly a book that you don t simply read You feel every page as it unfolds in all of its glory and brutality It s a also a book of heroes Martin Luther King to be sure but so many others that posterity has never truly given their just due Men like Fred Shuttlesworth, Bob Moses, Ella Baker, John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Stanley Levinson and so many, many others who without their contributions none of this would have been possible It is also a book of villains and cowards like George Wallace, small town Southern sheriffs, The Kennedy brothers and their inaction in the face of racial violence and injustice, and at times the NAACP, whose chief Roy Wilkins was openly disdainful and perhaps jealous of King s movement and often worked at cross purposes that threatened to derail both of them Chief among villains was J Edgar Hoover and his relentless obsession with discrediting King that took the form of wiretaps, constant surveillance, and later leaked innuendo and violence King was far from a saint in his personal life but no man deserved the harrassment he received at the hands of the FBI The one common strain that runs throughout this book however is nonviolence In the face of some of the worst brutality human beings could face, hundreds of thousands of brave men and women risked pain and death for the sake of a cause they saw as larger than themselves Dr King was the leader of this movement and it is in the end his story but it is just as much the story of love triumphing over injustice and of the human spirit s capacity to transcend fear and prejudices This was an incredible first volume and I m very much looking forward to reading the next two volumes This is history writing of the highest order.

  6. says:

    Wow Whew I finally finished This is a superbly researched book and was a great read It really humanizes MLK for me as well as showing me just what an incredible era my parents lived through Though an intimidating doorstop of a book, it was actually written in quite an accessible way I highly recommend it for people who are students of history or just want to know I also recommend it to those who don t see anything wrong with the continuing litany of deaths of black men by the police and who are horribly outraged by the black men kneeling during the national anthem as a protest We need to see these people as our equals Maybe if we see where we ve come from, things will change.

  7. says:

    For sheer size and detail, it seems inarguable that Taylor Branch has written the definitive Civil Rights Movement history This tome, which I hauled around with me for the better part of three weeks, is only a third of the series In over 900 pages it covers the history of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the history of King s family in Atlanta and, most extensively, the crescendos and nadirs of the movement from Montgomery to the March on Washington and the assassination of President Kennedy Branch wanders quite thoroughly down paths of subject matter that seem, especially early on, to be diversionary, but ultimately create a remarkably rich context for the reader King s theological foundations, the inner politics of the National Baptist Convention, the paranoia of a Hoover FBI, the politics of a Kennedy White House, and the foundational disagreements among the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC the foremost African American civil rights groups concerning tactics, goals, and motivations.I taught the Civil Rights Movement twice a school year for three years to a total of twenty different classes of high school seniors and I felt the constriction of time and attention spans each time After reading Parting the Waters, I have to recognize again what a weak and limited portrait we re accustomed to of this crucial period in American history We give our young people and ourselves very little of this remarkable story What is taught is a vague and watery history punctuated by a handful of names and dates, if teachers have the calendar days to get there at all The Civil Rights Movement, as I confess to teaching it, may have seemed to my students like exactly what it wasn t It may have seemed like a somewhat interesting but inevitable tumble towards greater equality, not a growing roar from the conscience of the nation, provoked by those most marginalized and magnified at the price of their very literal blood and tears.By contrast to my cursory PowerPoints and video clips, Branch adds flesh and blood to the characters of Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and of course Dr King, retracing their walk through history He introduces the reader to a much wider cast than our narrow textbook interpretations allow for Septima Clark, Bob Moses, and the murdered Medgar Evers, to name only a few He narrates the parallel drama among familiar heavyweights of American history John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and J Edgar Hoover He weaves carefully between descriptions of history and politics, cringe inducing descriptions of violence and injustice, and soaring depictions of King s oratory and the movement s accomplishments Okay, enough from me Great book Here are some favorite quotes In miniature, the Freedom Riders were compressing into one summer the psychology of the first three centuries of Christianity under the Roman Empire Perpetually on the brink of schism, apostles of nonviolent love were fanning out into the provinces to fill jails, while their confederates were negotiating with the emperors themselves for full citizenship rights, hoping to establish their outlandish new faith as the official doctrine of the state Trying at once to explain whites to Negroes and Negroes to whites, King felt all the acutely the anxieties and sensitivities that make each day of life a turmoil another emotional battle in a never ending war The Negro, he said, is shackled in his waking moments to tip toe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and in his subconscious he wrestles with this added demon on King s thirty fourth birthday, the FBI officially wrote him off as unfit for mediation or negotiation Thereafter, upon receiving intelligence that someone was trying to kill him, the Bureau would refuse to warn King as it routinely warned other potential targets The FBI assigned full enemy status to King, who had staked his life and his religion on the chance that enemy thinking might be overcome That an intelligence agency took such a step in the belief that King was an enemy of freedom, ignorant of the reality that King had just set in motion the greatest firestorm of domestic liberty in a hundred years, was one of the saddest ironies of American history

  8. says:

    Parting the Waters defines what a popular history should be detailed, well researched, and as readable as a novel While the life of MLK is the fulcrum of the work, Branch delves deeply into into areas as diverse as the history of Dexter Avenue Baptist and power struggle between Bobby Kennedy and J Edgar Hoover All this detail means that as Branch moves chronologically through the major events of the Civil Rights struggle, you feel like you have the context to understand exactly what these events meant to the people involved at the time they were happening What I most appreciate about this book is how it introduced me to major players in the Civil Rights movement who somehow didn t make my high school history book People like Vernon Johns, Fred Shuttlesworth, Robert Moses, Septima Clark, John Lewis, and Diane Nash, all of whom come across as fascinating and complex personalities in their own right One drawback to all this detail is that Parting the Waters is long really long I took me a summer of nights reading until one or two o clock in the morning to finish it Still, when I found the sequel, Pillar of Fire, on a discount table earlier this year I snapped it up and have been reading it ever since.

  9. says:

    One of the reviewers echoed my feelingsthis is probably the best non fiction I have ever read King is the axis of this brilliant but disturbing narrative, but the history of the US is skillfully interwoven Although there were many uplifting portions of the story, what a sad commentary on us as a nation What were the outrageous demands of the civil rights movement opportunity and equality In what can easily be characterized as a battle of good vs evil, Taylor takes us from the deep south, where segregationists routinely violate black civil rights with impunity, to Washington, DC, where the Kennedys feed civil right improvements to King through an erratic IV drip to mollify the southern Democrats Meanwhile, Hoover wastes untold man hours and tax dollars pursuing King as a communist, with zero evidence, contradicting his own men who reported no communist threat.Taylor s behind the scenes narrative of the White House tightrope on civil rights shows us that there was no room for lofty ideals, courage, or doing the right thing It was all political calculus Fast forward to the present, and imagine that the people we elect to move us forward view all pressing issues global warming, immigration, deficit reduction, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya through the prism of politics Nothing has changedit is politics as usual.SH

  10. says:

    Part of the definitive trilogy on the Civil Rights movement An incredible read meticulously researched It took him 23 years to complete it Branch is white but a number of years ago I saw him on an MLK Day panel on BET He was surrounded by black leaders from the movement whose names probably any informed person knows What does that tell you about how the people who lived the events in this book think about Branch s version The most amazing thing about this book is that you realize that MLK was only part of the story He was a front man and speaker but there were hundreds of other young Blacks and older too who took action without King s instruction and did amazing and horribly dangerous things Why didn t you know So much of this story was strictly a local Southern story Media beyond the South didn t bother and Branch does a wonderful job of helping us understand how so much of the story escaped us This volume included the Kennedy years Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis and so many other events that drew our attention Prepare to be disappointed in how the Kennedy brothers responded to the desegregation issue Think political ramifications as the guiding star Many histories are, admittedly, deadly dull This one was hard to put down.

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