Scholars comment on Taylor Branch's work

Historians in the News

The second forum in this issue looks back upon a notable achievement in the writing of recent American history, America during the King Years, by Taylor Branch. The final volume of this trilogy was published in 2007. Three historians examine Branch’s contribution from different perspectives. In “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Meaning of the 1960s,” Michael Kazin takes an appreciative look at the volumes’ interpretation of that turbulent decade, but also offers some criticism of Branch’s narrative as analytically inadequate to explain the social and political trends that defined the period. Clayson Carson’s “The Biography Branch Might have Written,” assesses the work from a biographical perspective, questioning whether Branch provides an accurate understanding of the deep sources of King’s actions throughout his life. Finally, Peniel Joseph, in “The Black Power Movement, Democracy, and America during the King Years,” focuses on African American militants and radicals, charging that Branch fails to acknowledge adequately the important role played by these figures both in the wider context both of American history and the Civil Rights movement.

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