At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68
By Taylor Branch
Simon & Schuster, 2006, 1056 pp.
The third installment of America in the King Years, Branch's extraordinary history of the civil rights movement in the United States, is exhaustive, monumental, and indispensable. Like the preceding two volumes, At Canaan's Edge is a carefully researched, scrupulously sourced narrative that takes readers moment by moment through key events. In the final three years of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, the clouds thickened and darkened -- over King, over the civil rights movement, over the country as a whole. When King, aged 39, was felled by an assassin's bullet in Memphis, the presidency of Lyndon Johnson had already been ruined by civil discord, inflation at home, and the Vietnam War. For students of American politics and history, this book is an extraordinary history of the ways that foreign and domestic policy overlap; Johnson would alternately field calls from Justice Department officials over civil rights crises in places like Selma, Alabama, and Pentagon officials pressing for difficult decisions on military policy in Vietnam. The consequences of things done and left undone in the last years of King's life continue to shape American life today; At Canaan's Edge is a book that demands to be read.