National Mall, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963

I am currently about 150 pages into Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963, the first volume in his trilogy about the United States in the 1950s and 60s seen through the lens of the Civil Rights Movement. I am currently in the chapter on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Branch’s series has been on my radar for decades, without ever quite making it to the top of my reading list until now. There is something extraordinary when a historian researches and writes a story with such authority and grace. It is all the more rewarding, even humbling, when the subject matter is worthy of the writer’s skills.

Today is the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington. Over the years I’ve read and watched many first hand accounts of people who were there, including Bob Dylan, Nat Hentoff, Bill Russell, and Jackie Robinson just to name a few. Broadly speaking, I have always found the first half of the 1960s more socially, politically, and culturally intriguing than the second half. The later events may have been more dramatic and played out more graphically on television, but the seeds for them had been planted in the years immediately beforehand. These are events in our history that seem so far removed and yet so near at the same time.

(image/photographer Marion S. Trikosko for U.S. News & World Report, via Library of Congress)