Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Taylor Branch to Give MLK Day Lecture

Posted on December 14th, 2011 by

Taylor Branch

Taylor Branch, arguably the preeminent biographer of Martin Luther King Jr., will deliver the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture at Gustavus Adolphus College at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 16 in Christ Chapel. Branch’s lecture will be live streamed for those who are unable to attend the event.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture is an annual event on the Gustavus campus that has previously drawn speakers such as the Rev. C.T. Vivian and Bernard Lafayette Jr. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Branch is an American author and public speaker best known for his landmark narrative history of the civil rights era, America in the King Years. The trilogy’s first book, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1988 along with numerous other awards including the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Melcher Book Award.

Two successive volumes also gained critical and popular success: Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65 and At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68. Decades later, all three books remain in demand.

Branch began his career in 1970 as a staff journalist for The Washington Monthly, Harper’s, and Esquire. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from ten colleges and universities, while other citations include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 and the National Humanities Medal in 1999.

In addition to his work on the civil rights era trilogy, Branch has also contributed significant works on President Bill Clinton and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In 2009, Branch published The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President, and more recently in 2011, The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA was published as an E-Book.

Branch’s lecture, titled “Myths and Miracles From the King Years,” will last approximately 45 minutes and will be followed by ten minute responses from both Macalester Associate Professor of American Studies Duchess Harris and University of St. Thomas School of Law Associate Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds. After a short break to allow Gustavus students to depart for classes, there will be a 15-minute question and answer session with the audience.

Branch will also be signing copies of his books from 2-3 p.m. during a reception in the Faculty/Staff Center in the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center.

Gustavus will conclude its Martin Luther King Day festivities with a performance by Minneapolis-based Mixed Blood Theatre at 7 p.m. in Alumni Hall. Mixed Blood’s Dr. King’s Dream celebrates the life and career of King through his own letters, sermons, books and speeches, including the timeless “I Have a Dream” speech. Marvin Grays, who has toured for Mixed Blood as Dr. King for well over a decade, will provide a commanding solo performance that is stirring and poignant. Mixed Blood’s performance of Dr. King’s Dream is free and open to the public and is suitable for audiences age 10 and up.

For more information or questions about Martin Luther King Day events at Gustavus on Jan. 16, contact Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Diversity and Multicultural Programs Virgil Jones at vjones@gustavus.edu or Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Peace Studies Program Mimi Gerstbauer at mgerstba@gustavus.edu.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. Mary Fredricks says:

    I just finished listening to Dr. Branch’s stunning MLK Day speech.Will it be archived so I can listen again? Will there be a transcript?

  2. Howard Katz says:

    Where can I get a written version of of this speech ??

    It was tremendous, biblical; midwives doing nonviolence.