‘Parting the waters’ is the first part of the very successful trilogy about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement written by the American historian Taylor Branch. This first book starts with a short retrospective of the situation in the 1940s and the early 1950s, which are sparking off the evolution of what would become the civil rights movement. This is soon followed by an account of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, which brought Martin Luther King to the forefront of the action. King is the protagonist but the book also looks at the student protests and the activities of many other African American civil rights activists. Branch gives a compelling description of the various sit-ins and protest marches organized in the southern United States in the 1955-1963 period. He also offers a careful and objective portrayl of the response of white America. It is sometimes astounding to read how the Ku Klux Klan got away with crimes against the African American community. But gradually, the just demands of King and his fellow activists gained wider social support throughout America. Particularly interesting, for instance, is the chapter on the relationship and meetings between King and President Kennedy.
This first part of Branch’s trilogy ends with the March on Washington, including King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. In the second part of the trilogy, Branch continues the story of the civil rights movement during the 1963-1965 period.
At the beginning of 2013 a new book by Branch about King and the civil rights movement was published, entitled The King Years. The book is a kind of selection of highlights from Branch’s trilogy.