Baltimore historian Taylor Branch is to receive a major literary award today for the final installment of his trilogy on Martin Luther King Jr. and his times.
The book, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (Simon & Schuster, 2006), is to be honored at George Washington University by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing human rights.
At Canaan's Edge has already won the 2006 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction and was a finalist for last year's National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
The late senator's widow, Ethel Kennedy, will present Branch with "distinguished honors" for his book, which follows Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (Simon & Schuster, 1988), which won the Pulitzer Prize for History, and Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65 (Simon & Schuster, 1998).
One of the judges, Gwen Ifill, a former Evening Sun reporter and now a correspondent for PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, said in a statement that At Canaan's Edge "is a rich narrative that reminds us of the hard decisions and all-too-human personalities that gave the civil rights movement such righteous momentum."
The grand prize in the Kennedy book awards will go to Douglas Brinkley for The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (William Morrow, 2006). Ifill said that, "with the detail of a great historian, and the urgency of a survivor," Brinkley "chronicles the drowning of a great American city in a manner designed to ensure that mistakes are not forgotten."
Another Branch book, Wrestling History: The Bill Clinton Tapes, based on conversations with President Bill Clinton during his eight years in the White House, will be published next year.