King Maker

During demonstrations in Birmingham, Martin Luther King Jr. took perhaps the most fateful decision made during the civil rights era

On April 12, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr., faced the prospect of failure in his most significant civil rights campaign. For all his generally acknowledged leadership in the escalating southern black protest movement, King had actually never initiated a major demonstration. Read more »

King, Obama, And The Great American Dialogue

What would Martin Luther King Jr.—had he been alive today—thought of our latest president’s oratory?

Standing in the cold with 2 million others near the Capitol as Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address, I couldn’t help but recall another crowded day 45 years earlier, when I heard Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration at the other end of the National Mall, in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Read more »

What Would The Founders Do Today?

Suppose they could go on "Meet The Press"...

Who cares what the founders would do? Who believes that the experiences, opinions, or plans of men who lived 200 years ago could have any relevance to our problems? Who imagines that the Founders could answer our questions?Read more »

“Tired Of Giving In”

The Montgomery Bus Boycott and its legacy

December 1, 1955, was a cool, drizzly night in Montgomery. James F. Blake, a veteran of World War II and a veteran bus driver, was maneuvering the bus he normally took on the Montgomery Avenue route through downtown toward Cleveland Avenue on the city’s west side. Read more »

Modern Times From 1974

This is a journalist’s list. My reading (and knowledge) is greatly influenced by the events of the day, the time, the era. My reading and my work are often one and the same. That is one of the best things about being a writer, but it may not be ideal for list making. This list is, I emphasize, not of the best books of the past 30 years, though many of these volumes might be considered for such a list. Some of these works were selected because of their immediate impact.Read more »

The Postwar Years 1945 To 1974

In his kaleidoscopic novel U.S.A., a trilogy published between 1930 and 1936, John Dos Passos offered a descriptive line that has always stayed with me. America, he wrote, is “a public library full of… dog-eared history books with protests scrawled on the margins.” Historical writing at its best is composed not only of facts but of thoughts and directions. And in this fastpaced country, where currents are very much subject to abrupt change, it is often hard for a history book to take root.Read more »

The American Century

The English journalist has spent more than a decade preparing a book on this country’s role in the most eventful hundred years since the race began. He liked what he found enough to become an American himself.

Evans likes to refer to The American Century as “history for browsers.” There are searching essays at the start of each chapter, but most of the book consists of tiropage spreads concerning particular people or events. Read more »

The Word Is ‘Slaves’: A Trip Into Black History

Deep South states are taking the lead in promoting landmarks of a three-hundred-year heritage of oppression and triumph—and they’re drawing visitors from around the world

Kate is waiting for us by the kitchen garden. Her owner, Benjamin Powell, has warned us that she “often has a case of the grumps,” so we approach her cautiously. I am with a class of fourth graders from Nashville, Tennessee, and together we are taking a trip back to 1770, the year at which time has stopped in Colonial Williamsburg. Despite the difference in our ages, the children and I have things in common: we are white, and we have never met a slave before. Read more »

The Week The World Watched Selma

A century after passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, many Southern blacks still were denied the vote. In 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr, set out to change that—by marching through the heart of Alabama.

From the frozen steps of Brown Chapel they could see the car moving toward them down Sylvan Street, past the clapboard homes and bleak, red-brick apartments that dotted the Negro section of Selma, Alabama. In a moment it pulled up at the chapel, a brick building with twin steeples, and the people on the steps sent word inside, where a mass meeting of local blacks was under way. He was here. It was Dr. King. They had waited for him much of the afternoon, singing freedom songs and clapping and swaying to the music.Read more »

A Postage Stamp History Of The U.S. In The Twentieth Century

Here is the federal government’s own picture history of our times—and it tells us more than you might think

FEW ARE AWARE of a major publishing project that has been sponsored by the federal government and some of our leading citizens over the past eight decades. It is a lavishly illustrated history of the United States in our times and it comes in parts—on postage stamps, to be precise. The story it tells may say as much about how we see ourselves as about what we’ve done since 1900. Read more »