Critical Essay on The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

Paper Type:  Book review
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1241 Words
Date:  2022-05-16

Introduction

In the book, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement, Taylor Branch chronicles Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and the American Civil Rights Movement's history. The author is an award-winning historian and American author. The book is part of a three-volume trilogy in which the author gives a historical account of King's years, what he stood and fought for, and his role in the civil rights movement. Taylor also talks about Malcolm X and his role in the movement. Branch's thesis in his book is that during his lifetime and a short stint as the leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King shaped the course of the American civil rights movement by advancing the American democracy and freedom through the use of nonviolent means. Branch argues that even though the civil rights movement was initially associated with Blacks and not many talks or know more about it up to date, the movement contributed significantly to the national debate on issues such as democracy, civil rights, freedoms and liberties, and American values. Further, according to the author, the main historic moments which shaped the struggle for civil rights in America include the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the University and college students' sit-ins, the nonviolent protests, picketing, or demonstrations, Rosa Park's arrest, the Montgomery bus boycotts, voting rights, citizenship rights, women's rights, and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act (Branch 17).

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The book begins by highlighting some of the issues, challenges, or grievances that African Americans. According to Branch, the civil rights movement was mainly born out of the struggle by African Americans for civil rights such as equality rights, political rights, socio-economic rights, and an end for racial and ethnic segregation. In the second chapter, Branch recounts the history of the civil rights movement in the US. He begins with the Brown v. Board of Education where the US Supreme Court rendered unconstitutional the separate-but-equal laws which created separate public facilities for African Americans and Whites. This was the same time that Rosa Parks declined to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a White leading to her arrest and subsequent Montgomery bus protests (Branch 41). In a bid to compel the federal government to implement the Supreme Court's decision, students in colleges and universities also joined the movement by organizing sit-ins such as the ones in Greensboro, N.C., which led to Woolworth being forced to drop its Whites-only policy. The sit-ins were also organized across the country by volunteers who were concerned about racial segregation.

According to WGBHForum, nonviolence was an important strategy during the civil rights movement since it indicated the advancement of American democracy and the fear among the movement's leaders a resort to violence would have led to the loss of more lives of Negros (n.p.). Martin Luther saw nonviolence as "an instrument for freedom through democracy" (WGBHForum 46:54). Nonviolence during these protests was thus a tactical and philosophical move by the leaders of the civil rights movement to avoid the movement being labeled as an insurrection group. In Chapter 3, Branch gives an account of King, Martin Luther, Jr, from 1929 to 1968. Here, the author narrates how King rose to national stardom through his tough stance on civil rights and liberties and the opposition to the oppression of Black people. This part also contains information on the obstacles that Luther faced in his quest for racial equality, such as stinging criticisms from the white media about him using racial relations to stir up protests and undermine American democracy. The section also gives an account of the role that Martin Luther King played in the movement until his death in 1668. In Chapter 4 of the book, Branch gives a short summary of the history of the US from 1953 to 1961 in terms of the key events which shaped these periods. Further, in chapter 5, the author recounts the history of the United States from 1961 to 1969 when the civil rights movement began to lose direction and grip on the issues which King had fought for during his lifetime.

Analysis

One of the main strengths of this book is that the author managed to prove the main thesis by giving a coherent account of the historical events that shaped the course of American democracy and the role that Martin Luther King played to ensure the success of the movement. Branch has managed to prove that the use of nonviolence as a philosophical and tactical strategy by the movement's leaders to ensure that its objectives were realized. At the same time, the author has clearly brought out the role that the federal government played in frustrating the activities of the civil rights movement. The book brings out in a succinct manner some of the political maneuvers that were made by the White House to ensure that the civil rights movement and its leaders were destroyed. Branch has also successfully proved his thesis by demonstrating how the movement contributed significantly to the democratic rights, liberties, movement, and values that all Americans now enjoy. Hence, as the author observes, the civil rights movement was not after all a movement of Blacks alone as others had earlier thought.

This book is effective in that it brings back to public light one of the most historically important yet often ignored event in the American history which contributed tremendously to the contemporary American democracy. Additionally, the book is effective in that it gives a coherent account of the history of the struggle for equal rights in the US. However, the only problem with the approach taken by the author in the book is that the chronological account of the events of the civil rights movement lacks substance and coherence income parts thus giving the reader a notion that the movement was all about Blacks' issues contrary to the author's claims to the contrary.

The kind of sources that were used in the book also lends credence to its effectiveness as a history book. In writing the book, the author used historical sources that are relevant to the struggle for civil rights in American history. Through these sources, the author has successfully put the civil rights movement in its historical, political, and social context. Hence, this is a good book to use for this course because it contributes to students' understanding of the history of the United States. The book also helps in understanding the concepts of race, racial segregation, and racial inequalities in the US and the struggles against these issues.

Conclusion

In summary, the book, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement, offers one of the most coherent historical accounts of the civil rights movement, the role of Martin Luther King in it, and the events which shaped the movement and led to its successes and failures. The author has effectively proved the thesis that during his lifetime and a short stint as the leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King shaped the course of the American civil rights movement by advancing American democracy and freedom through the use of nonviolent means.

Bibliographic Citation

Branch, Taylor. The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013

Works Cited

Branch, Taylor. The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013

WGBHForum. "Taylor Branch talks about America in the King Years, 1965-1968." YouTube, 31 May 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc-FSJVt2hE. Accessed 23 April 2018

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Critical Essay on The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. (2022, May 16). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/critical-essay-on-the-king-years-historic-moments-in-the-civil-rights-movement

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