Taylor Branch began his journalism career as a reporter for The Washington Monthly, Esquire, and Harper’s. He is best known for his three-part narrative history of the civil rights movement, America in the King Years. The first book in the trilogy, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 as well as numerous other accolades. Parting the Waters was followed by Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge, which examined the era of the March on Washington and the Selma march for voting rights, and the period between the Voting Rights Act and Martin Luther King’s death. The three volumes, which are based on a quarter-century of intensive research by Branch, have been compared to Shelby Foote’s definitive history of the Civil War and Robert Caro’s biographies of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
In addition to the civil rights movement, Branch has written about Bill Clinton in The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President(2009), an oral history based on eight years of private conversations with the former president. In 2011 he published a much talked-about cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Shame of College Sports,” which was said to be “the most important article ever written about college sports” by NPR commentator Frank Deford.
Branch has frequent public speaking engagements in front of audiences ranging Oxford University students to San Quentin prisoners. In 2008, he gave an address at the National Cathedral to mark the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s last Sunday sermon at the same pulpit. His most recent work is The King Years, a distilled version of his trilogy, which presents 18 key moments from the civil rights era.