Sunday, March 9, 2008

You. Are. There.

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65
by Taylor Branch

Those of you who know me know that my favorite period of American history is the Civil Rights Movement. I never tire of reading about that era and the courageous people who brought such necessary and long overdue change to our nation within a relatively short period of time. It is appalling how ingrained racism was on the part of white people, and the lengths to which some people would go to maintain Jim Crow laws and customs. What really blows my mind is that the segregated world is so foreign to me (thank God), but that from a historical perspective it was not that long ago. Forty years - practically last week.

I have a substantial collection of civil rights related books, but Taylor Branch's are among the best. The first of this civil rights trilogy, Parting the Waters, won a Pulitzer prize. Pillar of Fire is the second, and At Canaan's Edge is the third. I read Parting the Waters (1954-63) about a year ago, and plan to read the third one in the not too distant future. If you enjoy reading history, this is great stuff. Branch's writing is not especially lyrical or poetic, but that's not its job. The job of this writing is to convey an important part of our nation's story with a sense of immediacy. Taylor succeeds admirably. Every single sentence is packed with information - his detail work is incredible. You really feel as if you are there, living the fear and the cruelty and the hopeful moments all over again. Given the emotional subject, this makes for intense reading.

These books are not straight biography of Martin Luther King Jr., although he is obviously a central figure. Rather, they are the biography of the Movement as a whole as it related to the United States government and to the country's wider population. Branch paints vivid portraits of many of the Civil Rights Movement people, including well known names as well as unknown people who found themselves swept up in the tide of justice and freedom. These lesser known characters are part of what makes the book so interesting - the bravery that ordinary people found within themselves is astounding. Many of these previously unknown participants were uneducated and became involved in the Movement with very little self-confidence. Nevertheless, they found their voices when the situation called them to, and Taylor honors their sacrifices and courage with his writing.

Pillar of Fire gives us a window into the political processes that both helped and hurt the cause of civil rights. We see multi-faceted portraits of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and the infamous J. Edgar Hoover, among others. This volume also provides insight into the infighting of the Nation of Islam that led to the assassination of Malcolm X. Endlessly fascinating stuff.

One theme that emerges from the whole saga of Civil Rights is the devastation caused by ignorance. I like to hope that I would not have been a segregationist, even if I had grown up in Itta Bena, Mississippi in the 1950s. I like to hope that. The truth is, though, that I do not know who I would be if I had not had opportunities for education and travel and widely varied cultural experiences that I have had in my life. Without excusing any of the atrocities committed by white people in that turbulent time, I have to think that a great many of them simply did not know any better. They had lived a certain way (albeit an unjust way) for so long that it was difficult for them to question it, or to see the absurdities of sending American soldiers to fight for democracy in far flung corners of the world while at the same time denying it to some of our hardest working citizens.

It is easy to have wisdom when looking back four decades, but Taylor's books remind us of the necessity to continue raising questions and seeking justice, regardless of the time and place in which we live. He does credit to many, many people who fought a nonviolent war on terror and prevailed.

Reverent Reader


At 3/10/08, 5:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking forward to reading this...I loved Parting the Waters. They are a commitment but well worth it!


At 5/10/16, 10:20 PM , Blogger ninest123 said...

air jordan pas cher, michael kors, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, longchamp outlet, louboutin pas cher, longchamp pas cher, air max, ray ban sunglasses, cheap oakley sunglasses, nike air max, louis vuitton outlet, nike roshe run, sac longchamp, burberry, louis vuitton, louis vuitton, nike air max, nike free, polo ralph lauren outlet, tory burch outlet, nike outlet, chanel handbags, ray ban sunglasses, replica watches, louboutin, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, christian louboutin outlet, replica watches, oakley sunglasses, louboutin shoes, nike free, tiffany and co, prada handbags, uggs on sale, longchamp, longchamp outlet, prada outlet, tiffany jewelry, ugg boots, polo ralph lauren outlet, oakley sunglasses, gucci outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton, louboutin outlet, ralph lauren pas cher, kate spade outlet, jordan shoes

At 5/10/16, 10:29 PM , Blogger ninest123 said...

michael kors outlet, michael kors, burberry outlet online, abercrombie and fitch, replica handbags, tn pas cher, michael kors outlet, michael kors, oakley pas cher, lacoste pas cher, new balance pas cher, kate spade handbags, nike free run uk, hogan, sac guess, coach outlet, nike air max, ralph lauren uk, michael kors, hermes, true religion jeans, coach purses, nike roshe, ugg boots, nike air max, vans pas cher, michael kors outlet, lululemon, nike air max, true religion jeans, north face, coach outlet, north face, vanessa bruno, true religion outlet, ray ban uk, air force, michael kors, mulberry, nike blazer, burberry, timberland, hollister, ray ban pas cher, true religion jeans, hollister pas cher, converse pas cher, michael kors outlet, ugg boots, michael kors outlet

At 5/10/16, 10:38 PM , Blogger ninest123 said...

north face outlet, nike air max, hollister, oakley, p90x workout, longchamp, ghd, hollister, north face outlet, asics running shoes, louboutin, nike huarache, converse, baseball bats, celine handbags, new balance, vans, vans shoes, ferragamo shoes, iphone cases, soccer jerseys, herve leger, reebok shoes, insanity workout, nike air max, nfl jerseys, lululemon, mcm handbags, converse outlet, hollister, gucci, timberland boots, birkin bag, valentino shoes, babyliss, ralph lauren, ray ban, nike roshe, wedding dresses, jimmy choo shoes, instyler, bottega veneta, beats by dre, chi flat iron, giuseppe zanotti, nike trainers, soccer shoes, mac cosmetics, mont blanc, abercrombie and fitch

At 5/10/16, 10:51 PM , Blogger ninest123 said...

pandora jewelry, wedding dresses, supra shoes, hollister, canada goose outlet, moncler, moncler outlet, canada goose, moncler, montre pas cher, swarovski, canada goose outlet, louis vuitton, moncler, pandora charms, moncler, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, doudoune canada goose, pandora jewelry, canada goose, canada goose, louis vuitton, replica watches, karen millen, ugg boots uk, canada goose, ugg pas cher, louis vuitton, coach outlet, thomas sabo, barbour, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, marc jacobs, links of london, moncler, louis vuitton, bottes ugg, barbour jackets, sac louis vuitton pas cher, moncler, pandora charms, swarovski crystal, canada goose uk, moncler, juicy couture outlet, juicy couture outlet


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home