Cover image for Pillar of fire : America in the King years, 1963-65
Pillar of fire : America in the King years, 1963-65
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, c1998.
Physical Description:
xiv, 746 p. : photographs.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 973 BRA 1 1
Book 973 BRA 1 1

On Order



Volume two of a three volume history of the American civil rights movement, America in the King Years. This volume takes the reader from the assassination of President Kennedy and describes Martin Luther King's struggle to hold his movement together in the face of factionalism and violence.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Comprehensiveness does not necessarily mean readability, and it certainly does not mean it here in the second volume of Branch's proposed trilogy on the civil rights era in U.S. history, following Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954^-63 (1989). Although the previous volume was a best-seller and won the Pulitzer Prize--and for those reasons this follow-up volume will be in demand in libraries--readers will have to be dedicated to the subject to wade through this unimaginatively presented assemblage of facts. Branch's research is impeccable and his knowledge of his material solid as he focuses on the civil rights movement's "peak years," when, beginning with the campaign in Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. took strides forward in his program to deliver equality to his race. But the prose is so airless, the reader will gasp for breath as the author chronicles King's struggles within his own movement for leadership, struggles within the entire black community for direction in achieving racial fairness, and confrontations with the federal government, particularly the FBI. The book is significant for marshaling so much information, particularly the profiles of all the many individuals involved in the race issues of that time, but it lacks fluidity. --Brad Hooper

Kirkus Review

In this stirring follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Parting the Waters (1988), Branch recalls the terror, dissension, and courage of the civil-rights movement at its zenith: the mid-1960s agitation leading to landmark integration and voting-rights legislation. With deft narrative skill, Branch shows how the lives of individuals and the nation as a whole were transformed in such diverse settings as Birmingham, Ala., where legendary protests occurred; the LBJ White House; and South-Central L.A., where a 1962 shooting involving police and Black Muslims signaled the start of a decade of urban tensions. Memoirs, oral histories, interviews, and recently revealed FBI wiretaps enable Branch to trace the inexorable momentum of change almost day by day. He also details the overlapping goals, tactical disputes, and petty jealousies among and within major movement organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the NAACP. Straddling a narrative filled with a novel's-worth of fascinating real-life characters are two spellbinding, tormented figures epitomizing two poles of protest: Martin Luther King Jr., unnerved by FBI surveillance of his philandering, so resentful of Kennedy caution over civil-rights advocacy that he cracked an obscene joke while watching the president's funeral, yet winning a Nobel Peace Prize; and Malcolm X, shattered by his discovery that mentor Elijah Muhammad had impregnated several secretaries, attempting on the fly to plot a new course away from the Nation of Islam before his assassination. Finally, Branch foreshadows the forces and events that were to stall the movement in the next few years: a Republican Party making inroads in the South during Barry Goldwater's otherwise disastrous campaign, the alienation of white liberals from militant blacks, and the Vietnam War. With a third volume to come, this history is taking pride of place among the dozens of fine chronicles of this time of tumult and moral witness in American history. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Branch continues his acclaimed trilogy on the Civil Rights era, begun with Parting the Waters (LJ 1/89). (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.