Book review: 'The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement' by Taylor Branch

In the new book “The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement” (Simon & Schuster, $26), author Taylor Branch offers a new point of view about a well-known story.
By Terri Schlichenmeyer Published: February 24, 2013
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The White House “leaned toward proposing a civil rights bill,” but there was still a ways to go.

The FBI was secretly keeping records on King. State officials rationalized violence through archaic local laws. Civil rights workers put themselves in danger for the movement. Some faced certain beating. Others faced certain death.

There's more, of course, to this story, and much of it has become abundantly familiar in the past 50 years.

What makes “The King Years” different, though, is how the story is told. Branch spent 24 years writing a three-book history on America during the civil rights movement, and he says in his preface that he prefers to tell “stories of impact” in “narrative detail.”

Instead of getting a dry dates-and-events history book, readers are given glimpses of life and historically significant events that are presented almost in the form of a novel.

That makes this book very accessible for veterans of the movement, youngsters who weren't born yet, and for students of this subject.

For a fresh reflection on a tumultuous period of time, “The King Years” looks good at any angle.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer