On 'edge'

THE BALTIMORE SUN

He has come to the end of a nearly 24-year literary journey that, almost unimaginably, he once thought would take him three years. At some point - after all these years he can't remember when - it dawned on biographer Taylor Branch that his civil rights trilogy would be, as he called it, his "life's work," something that has consumed much of his adulthood but has also rendered him an authority on one of America's most turbulent periods.

His final installment, now reaching bookstores, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (Simon & Schuster, 1,041 pages, $35), closes out the trilogy with the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. - the monumental civil rights leader whose life story inspired Branch to embark upon his own journey.

If you go Taylor Branch will appear at the Enoch Pratt Free Library at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss and sign copies of At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68, the final installment in his trilogy about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Taylor Branch

Birthplace:

Atlanta

Age:

59

Education:

University of North Carolina (graduated in 1968)

Work:

Texas campaign staff of George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign (with former President Bill Clinton); staff writer for Washington Monthly, Harper's and Esquire.

Books:

Second Wind (Random House, 1979) with Bill Russell; Blind Ambition (Simon & Schuster, 1976) by John Dean (ghostwritten by Branch); Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (Simon & Schuster, 1988); Pillar of Fire (Simon & Schuster, 1999); At Canaan's Edge (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

Awards:

Recipient of 1988 Pulitzer Prize in History for Parting the Waters.

Personal:

Lives in Baltimore with his wife, Christina Macy; they have two children, Macy and Franklin.

Book excerpt

An excerpt from At Canaan's Edge, by Taylor Branch:

The sharp report of guns sounded twice on the first launch of tear gas, one round reportedly fired by Sheriff Clark himself. A canister landed behind a moving wave of chaos that had not yet registered all the way back up Pettus Bridge toward Selma, where some marchers in the distance still knelt in prayer as instructed. From the tangle in the foreground, a Negro woman came spilling out to the side, pursued by one masked trooper and struck by two others she passed. Three ducking Negro men crossed toward nowhere with an injured woman they carried by arms and a leg, her undergarments flapping. Horsemen and masked officers on foot chased marchers who tried to escape down along the riverbank, herding them back. The cloud of tear gas from canister and spray darkened toward the mouth of the bridge, obscuring all but the outlines of a half-dozen figures on the ground and scattered nightsticks in the air.

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