Indispensable lesson in American history,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 (Taschenbuch)
"Parting the Waters" brings vividly to life one of the most essential chapters in American history: the arduous struggles of African-Americans between 1954 and 1963 to secure the civil rights denied to them by nearly a century of organized opposition of the states and indifference on the part of the federal government.
The book succeeds brilliantly on many levels: as a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., it captures the greatness of the man without cleansing him of flaws. As a political primer, it de-romanticizes the Kennedy administration, portraying John and his brother Robert as hard-nosed realists who were not unwilling to turn their backs on the civil rights movement if they felt that support would endanger their chances of re-election. As a People's history, it pays detailed homage to the foot soldiers who fought in the backwaters of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to dismantle the mountain of segregation. Men and women whom you may never have heard of will capture your imagination: James Bevel, Diane Nash, Septima Clark, Robert Moses, James Lawson, and Charles Sherrod, to name but a few who literally risked their lives to force America to live up to its ideals of equality of opportunity. And to those who would congratulate America on its successes in the field of civil rights, it offers a telling antidote to that self-congratulation in its recounting of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI's determined opposition to King and its tireless efforts to discredit him and the movement.
Most of all, however, "Parting the Waters" reaffirms for me that great history is the province of the writer, not of the video documentarian. Some great filmwork has been done on this era: "Eyes on the Prize" and Spike Lee's "Four Little Girls" come to mind, as do film biographies of King, such as "Martin Luther King: An Amazing Grace." But the problem with film is that it inevitably reduces the civil rights struggle to a series of great moments of high drama, leaving the impression that the road to victory was inevitable, despite the obstacles. Branch's book, on the other hand, at times leaves you wondering whether the victories in Birmingham, Montgomery and elsewhere would ever be achieved, even when you know the outcome. It never shrinks from emphasizing the rifts within the movement itself, the daunting indifference of most of society, the doubts that plagued King himself, the hard compromises that had to be made, and the demoralizing defeats that were suffered in places like Albany, Georgia.
This is first-rate work, an epic history and a story that accomplishes the paradoxical task of simultaneously stirring pride in this country's accomplishments and shame at the fact that the task to achieve the victories had to be undertaken at all.