Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65

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The finest non-fiction book since . . . Parting the Waters - I now have the difficult task of deciding if Pillar of Fire is, in fact, a better book than Taylor Branch's masterful predecessor volume, Parting the Waters.It has been almost 10 years since Parting the Waters was published, and I had waited with growing impatience for the second of Branch's three volume history of the civil rights movement. It is well worth the wait. Mixing an eye for telling detail with a gift for placing those details in context, Pillar is propulsively readable and informative. The years have dulled our recollection of the horrors that were visited upon the brave people, young and old, who broke the back of Jim Crow in the early 60's.Pillar of Fire and Parting the Waters should be required reading for those who suggest that the grievances of Black Americans are largely imagined. The recitations of the evils of the Hoover FBI, alone, are instructive as to the abuses of power that infested that agency during Hoover's reign.READ THIS BOOK!
Too much, too little, a bit late, Mr. Branch - Some reviewers point to the yawn-inspiring length and density of printed matter making up this effort. Not so much of a problem had it been engagingly written and/or illuminating. PTW was both of those things. I intended to use Mr. Branch's book as a primary resource in conjunction with a paper I'm writing on women leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. Imagine my very predictable chagrin when women are barely mentioned. Pictures of Rosa Parks and Ella Baker are supplemented by thumbnail sketches while we are fed a dizzying amount of minutiae about a man whose hagiography is probably in the bottom drawer of the Pope's desk. Minute by minute, we are led through King's life, but the larger context in which he operated seems missing. Where is the strife between MLK, CORE, SNCC, SCLC, due to their different organizing philosophies and methods of producing change? Where are we now? The dearth of visible, radical black leadership we are experiencing may well be a response to the...
a wonderful continuation of a stirring, heroic epic - Picking up where we left off in the supurb Parting the Waters, the book's first chapter introduces the rising struggle for recognition of Elijah Muhummad's Nation of Islam. After religious services at a Los Angles Mosque, Chief Parker's strongarm crew stomps around outside and causes a whole lot of trouble. An ensuing riot followed, leaving several people dead and many more wounded. There were many arrests and only the Muslims were charged with murder. This tale leads to the growing notoriety of Malcolm X and his eventual split with the Nation of Islam, which lead, most likely, to his murder. Then the book branches out to many other areas, from St. Augustine, Florida, the continent's oldest city, to brutality in Alabama and Mississippi. The only trouble with the book, is Branch's primary focus on Martin Luther King. Not that these stories aren't fascinating, but the intrigue and dangerous plots of the Nation of Islam split is far more interesting. Perhaps it's just me, with my...