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At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68 (America in the King Years #3)

4.43  ·  Rating Details ·  1,098 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
At Canaan's Edge concludes America in the King Years, a three-volume history that will endure as a masterpiece of storytelling on American race, violence, and democracy. Pulitzer Prize-winner and bestselling author Taylor Branch makes clear in this magisterial account of the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King, Jr., earned a place next to James Madison and Abraha ...more
Paperback, 1056 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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Jun 27, 2013 Richard rated it it was amazing
"At Canaan's Edge" is the final volume of the trilogy of Taylor Branch's masterful telling of the tumult occurring on the social and political scene in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century. The important civil rights-related struggles of 1965 to 1968 are covered. The most troubling ideological element to emerge at this time was the role of violence in resolving civil disputes.

1965 marked a continuation of the Southern-focused strategy of organized demonstrations of massed vo
Lee Anne
Mar 17, 2008 Lee Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished (finally!). Either I'm older (and smarter), or this was the most readable volume in the trilogy. I didn't cry at the very end, but the "Mountaintop" speech did me in, and I'm glad to live in an internet age, since I could immediately go to YouTube and listen to the speech in its entirety.

Anyway, Taylor Branch does an amazing job (and he knows it, too: there are a few troubling, ego-inflating blurbs in the dust jacket puffery and the acknowledgements, but no matter--it's still a
Feb 07, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing
After I saw "Selma", I realized I needed to finish Branch's trilogy. What a book — it moves quickly through all 771 pages. The breakneck pace helped me feel some empathy for the main characters, especially King and Johnson, who had to react to events they couldn't have enough control over. Johnson's juggling of domestic legislation w the Vietnam war matched King's struggle to expand the fight for domestic civil rights to a fight against that war. I had a lot of sympathy for Johnson's predicament ...more
Jan 22, 2009 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-10-2009
Having read the first two volumes of this trilogy, I felt obliged to read the third. At times painfully detailed, this work, nevertheless is powerful, passionate and scholarly. The era (for the trilogy) is absolutely Shakespearean. King does not dominate in this book as much as in the first volume. Yet, such wonderful and ghastly characters: James Bevel, the emergent Jesse Jackson, Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover, and, for me, two stars in Doar and, especially Katzenbach. And ...more
Dec 27, 2016 spoko rated it liked it
I find Branch's style too terse; the really significant moments in his narrative almost seem to get less attention than the trivial. It's an important history, and worth such a full retelling. But honestly, you'll appreciate this book more if you're already familiar with the basic contours of the story.
Jan 12, 2008 Rick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the third and final volume of Branch’s magnificent history-biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Like its two predecessors, it is an amazingly successful effort, informative, moving, and strongly convincing. Branch makes the case for King as a unique leader in our history, a social revolutionary, animated like Gandhi, by a consuming belief that non-violence was not just a tactic but a calling for world-change. No other force could effectively challenge racism, poverty, and war. Over half ...more
Mikey B.
Jan 03, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
A most admirable conclusion to Taylor Branch’s trilogy of these tumultuous years.

Martin Luther King is a major moral force and catalyst in twentieth century American history. He was a guiding voice to the American people. He juxtaposed non-violence against racism and perfidious behaviour. He opposed the Vietnam War even though this jeopardized and eventually ended his relationship with President Lyndon Johnson.

Lyndon Johnson is also presented as a significant figure in transforming America away
Charlie Newfell
Jan 19, 2014 Charlie Newfell rated it it was amazing
Stunning final book of the Civil Rights trilogy. This deals with MLK during perhaps the most difficult years of his leadership, leading right up to his tragic death. With the Civil Rights Act of 1964, his Nobel Peace Prize and the 1965 Voting Rights act, the momentum of the movement was hard to maintain and focus. The Vietnam escalation and the quickly rising anti-war protests, white racist backlash, the Black Power movement and the riots in LA, Detroit and Newark showed how close the entire cou ...more
Aug 15, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing
The transformation of MLK in the American imagination is rather remarkable. In a generation, King went from one of the most divisive (if not the most divisive) figure in America to one of the few historical figures that can act as a touchstone to all mainstream ideological factions; it is one of the ironies of history that the only comparable figure is Abraham Lincoln. It is a great credit to Branch that he is able to strip away the image of King for the historical King, a personally conflicted, ...more
Sep 01, 2015 Deb rated it really liked it
I happened to find this book in audiobook form and found it very interesting. I was a young child during the years of 1965-1968 and remember watching, on TV, some of the events that were retold in Taylor Branch's book. It stirred emotions in me then and it brought back those emotions to me now, while revisiting a people's fight for freedom and equality. This book is narrative biographical history of the last years of Dr. Martin Luther King. Branch did a wonderful job of detailing King's movement ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Cynthia rated it really liked it
So much of what we know of the civil rights movement of the 1960s focuses on the southern United States--Selma, Montgomery, Memphis. I was fascinated by the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others in Chicago.

In the 1940s and 1950s, blacks migrated into northern cities. Many had lost sharecropper jobs to mechanized cotton picking. In Chicago "they displaced nearly a hundred thousand Jews from the neighborhoods of Lawndale, where 15 synagogues closed for resale in a single year, 1953.
Apr 21, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing
Though the level of detail is impressive, Pillar of Fire is bookended by two much stronger works. In this book, there's a palpable feeling of the tide pulling towards historic inevitability, but at the same time, you get a real sense that the what is today the known past was a most uncertain future at the time.

I read this series out of a desire to learn more about the civil rights movement, but was treated to a much broader swatch of history. There are myriad twists and turns into epochal events
Mari Stroud
Aug 01, 2012 Mari Stroud rated it it was amazing
Parting the Waters was damned near perfect. Pillar of Fire lost its focus a bit by trying too hard to compare and contrast Dr. King and Malcolm X. At Canaan's Edge returns to what makes Branch so good: his immense grasp of context. This book focuses on the push-pull of Lyndon Johnson with and versus King, as Johnson was an emotionally sympathetic president, but equally wild and often pants-off as a strategist, while King was deliberately steadfast and pragmatic as every wartime general has to be ...more
Andrew Scholes
Dec 21, 2013 Andrew Scholes rated it really liked it
This was a very good historical treatment of the Civil Rights Era. I learned a lot that I did not know. Through school, we only ever covered up through WWII at the most. The school year would be over before we got any further. The third book of the trilogy dealt a lot with Vietnam and Martin Luther King trying to take a stand against the war. Many it the Civil Rights movement didn't want his time to be bifurcated like that.
Jul 08, 2013 Michael rated it liked it
Finishing this final book in Branch's King trilogy took me several months. I greatly enjoyed it but also got fatigued. The first section, discussing Selma, and the final section, discussing Memphis, are both gripping and fascinating. There is, oh course, also a lot of trees in this forest. King's schedule - "and then he went to a speech in Chicago" was remarkably full and did not need to be so meticulously laid out.
Jamie Howison
Jan 24, 2014 Jamie Howison rated it really liked it
An incredibly detailed but still utterly readable look at the United States during the final three years of MLK's life... as filtered through his life, in fact. I found this one really hard to put down, partly because Branch was willing to show his principal characters in all of their humanity. A fascinating story, well told.
Glen Gersmehl
Dec 26, 2014 Glen Gersmehl rated it it was amazing
third volume of an extremely readable, in-depth exploration of one the central liberation struggles in the U.S. of the last sixty years
Feb 19, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure there's anything comparable to Branch's work on King and the Civil Rights Movement, maybe David Garrow's "Bearing the Cross." Highly recommended.
Aug 31, 2011 Clif rated it it was amazing
If the sun should suddenly cease to exist, what would happen to the planets?

They would lose their way and fly from their stable orbits.

I thought of this as I finished Taylor Branch's third book in his trilogy on the Civil Rights Movement that ends with the killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. A large following had built up around him - Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, James Bevel and many others. Though usually contentious (something King patiently allowed as productive),
Oct 02, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A painful and powerful read. I spent the last few months reading the three books in this trilogy and am so glad I did. Great insight into many of the big players during this turbulent time. The distressing part is how far we still have to go...too much of this is just as appropriate today as it was 50 years ago.
Craig Werner
Jun 07, 2011 Craig Werner rated it liked it
I waited a few days after finishing the final volume of Taylor Branch's massive and, despite the problems I'll detail below, history of America in the King Years. But as I've worked through, taking notes for some writing I'm working on, I became more and more convinced that On Canaan's Edge doesn't quite live up to the breathtaking power of Parting the Waters and the solid sequel, Pillar of Fire. To some extent, the problems are inherent in the story--King's arc was from triumph to a tragedy tha ...more
Mar 24, 2015 judy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Finished! The last of three magnificent and wonderfully sourced books on the King years. At least 1500 pages, mainly of things I didn't know. I should have known because I lived through the events and was in college for most of the time. No doubt much of the public thought King had become less active or switched to the anti-war movement after Selma. Not so. He was working all the time--targeting poverty, often in the North, and segregated housing in urban areas. I'll admit being annoyed with him ...more
Sep 01, 2014 B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, westend
Branch really buries the lede here. The shocking truth, given current lionization of MLK, is how totally ineffective he was in his last few years—at least on the facts that Branch presents. There are virtually no successes to be found in this book except the deals made in Chicago, which were so pooh-poohed in Royko's Boss that I can't tell if they were valuable.

To be clear, that does not indicate that MLK's goals were wrong or that he was a poor leader or anything like that. Just that he was on
Lynn Silsby
I ordered used copies of each volume of this series on Amazon, all at once, after quite a bit earlier having learned of its existence browsing at a bookstore. Somehow I was confident that yes, these were the very best books to read about MLK and the civil rights era. I haven't read all the others, so you know, caveat emptor, but I do recommend Taylor Branch's series. I feel like I've taken two semesters of a course devoted to the topic and I didn't have to write a single paper!

If you like, or ra
Sep 22, 2012 Trip rated it it was amazing
I'm sad to finish this book, the third in Taylor Branch's narrative history of America in the King Years. Because At Canaan's Edge is terrific and haunting and sad and inspiring. Beginning with the campaign in Selma, Ala. in 1965 and ending with MLK's assassination in 1968, At Canaan's Edge conveys in extraordinary detail the challenges MLK and the movement faced as leaders as well as followers espoused nonviolence even as they expanded their mission to focus on poverty as a root cause of so muc ...more
Jun 10, 2010 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: U.S. Citizens
Shelves: history
This volume begins with the voting rights crusade, the violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the march to Montgomery. Martin Luther King wrote from jail that February 1965: "This is Selma, Alabama. There are more Negroes in jail with me than there are on the voting rolls."

Little did anyone know that this was going to be the apex and last significant event of the civil rights movement. The Movement was broken by two things: the rejection of nonviolence in the philosophy of Malcolm X along wit
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it liked it
This is the story of Martin Luther King's last three years. It chronicles the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965, the Chicago campaigns, the voter registration drives in rural Alabama and Mississippi, King's stormy relationship with LBJ, King's struggle with the issue of the Vietnam war, the Memphis garbage workers' strike, the mountaintop speech and King's assassination. King lived during a turbulent time and this book ably discusses his struggles, within his movement and with allies like LBJ. ...more
Hank Pharis
Dec 19, 2016 Hank Pharis rated it liked it
See review of the first volume in this series Pillar of Fire.
The third and final volume in Taylor Branch's history of the civil rights movement was for me the most interesting of the three. I wonder if anyone in US history was more of a bastard than J. Edgar Hoover. Lots of great information about King, Hoover, Stokely Carmichael (who may be second only to MLK in the amount of space he commands in this book), LBJ, RFK (including his encounter with a poor Mississippi youth who told Kennedy he'd had "molasses" for breakfast and supper but as for lunch "Didn ...more
Feb 16, 2010 Ben rated it liked it
My problem with this book is that it almost tries to do too much. Unlike the first two, which felt tight and really had an overarching narrative, this one read more like a series of vignettes and anecdotes that were meticulous and well-researched but would have benefited from more instances of Branch taking a step back to explain how this fit in with larger themes. As a result, the picture of the movement kind of falling apart is not as strong as it could have been. The book also has only a few ...more
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Last Years of Martin Luther King Jr,'s Civil Rights work 1 7 May 06, 2009 01:09PM  
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Taylor Branch (born January 14, 1947, in Atlanta, Georgia) is an American author and historian best known for his award-winning trilogy of books chronicling the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and some of the history of the American civil rights movement. The third and final volume of the 2,912-page trilogy — collectively called America in the King Years — was released in January 2006. Branch live ...more
More about Taylor Branch...

Other Books in the Series

America in the King Years (3 books)
  • Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
  • Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65

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