Tuesday, January 21, 2014


These wordsmith entries don’t seem to be happening quite as often as I assumed they would. Oh, well fortunes of the game.

This one is for Taylor Branch for his three part bio of Martin Luther King and the America he lived in. The titles of the three books pay homage to the role the story of the Exodus plays in many of the Black American churches. Parting the Waters covers the years 1954 to 1963. He won the Pulitzer for this one. Pillar of Fire 1963 to 1965 and At Canaan’s Edge 1965 to 1968.

Branch has a biting sense of humor at times. His work is detailed. Incredibly detailed. Exhaustively detailed. One of the downsides is the sheer number of people involved in that history. You can get lost in those details.  but if you are patient it's worth it. And it's the little details that make you stop with a jerk. How is some parts of the south a non white didn't dare buy a car with an automatic transmission. His/her white neighbors just might consider him to be "uppity." How department stores were willing to sell you a suit but you couldn't try it on. Just in case you decided against that one Wouldn't want a white person trying it on afterwards. Who knows. The color might rub off or something. 

There is extensive coverage of King's years in seminary and doctoral studies. Who influenced his beliefs and why. Arrrrgh, I think my reading list just got longer. 

Heck all three volumes run to just over two thousand pages with a very extensive bibliography. This is old style biography. The author doesn’t talk down to the reader and assumes that you have enough brain cells to follow the story.  Hopefully the local library, if they have them, has the hardback versions. At least they stay open when you lay them down on the table.

And this is definitely old school printwork and binding. Conservative size type and narrow margins.

The titles of course refer to the story of the Exodus. I find the title of the last At Canaan’s Edge particularly moving. After all Moses only got to see the promised land. He didn’t cross over Jordan. Like Moses MLK caught a glimpse of the promised land. But, unlike Moses, King didn’t reach the biblical three score and ten much less the one hundred plus claim for Moses.

He was working to include us all in his dream of a world where we would all have a chance to live as human beings. A world where in Gandhi’s words”there IS enough everyone’s needs” because we’ve finally decided to say no to our greed.

Sadly that dream appears to be not only largely unrealized but further away than ever. 

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