Taylor Branch is known to the world as author of the monumental "America in the King Years" trilogy. He's additionally known to Atlantic readers for his definitive cover story "The Shame of College Sports" in late 2011. He is additionally known to me as my immediate predecessor as a writer and editor at The Washington Monthly in the early 1970s. I was just out of graduate school and looking for a job, and he was leaving the job and headed to Texas to work with a young aspiring politico from Arkansas [yes, Yale law student Bill Clinton] on the McGovern campaign there.
This afternoon I had an opportunity to interview Taylor Branch at the Aspen Institute's offices in Washington on his new book The King Years, as part of Aspen's Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series. This was about as interesting an hour-plus as I can remember spending. The video of the session is below. When you have some time to listen to Taylor's full account, I think you will be glad to have done so. If you want to feel both better and worse, contrast the way you hear Taylor discuss the currents and contradictions in America's politics with the way you usually hear them presented by practitioners and analysts today. Better, because of the context he adds; worse, because of what is normally left out.
If you can hear only a little bit of this, listen to the first 10-minute discussion, in which Taylor Branch explains why he thinks we should be kicking off a series of week-by-week observations of the 50th anniversary of fateful moments of 1963. Here is the YouTube link as well.