At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68

Taylor Branch

The best biographies provide context for the examined life, and Taylor Branch’s three-volume examination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life is among the best of the best. Subtitled America in the King Years, the trilogy provides a panoptic view of the culture and times that combined with King to make a legend. This final volume makes use of recently available audiotapes to examine King’s relationship with President Johnson and his administration. It also delves fully into a part of the King legacy that many conveniently forget: his move toward the left in his final years, as he began to fully articulate the relationship between racism, poverty and war. He afflicted the comfortable in an uncomfortable time, and Branch’s biography brings the whole picture into focus.