Taylor Branch's second narrative of the civil rights era, "Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-1965," has won the 1999 Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.
The book, published last year, is the second in a planned trilogy by the Baltimore historian. Branch has said that he "hopes to sustain his thesis that [Martin Luther] King's life is the best and most important metaphor for American history in the watershed post-war years."
The ABA award goes annually to writers who best illustrate the legal system. The ABA called "Pillar of Fire" a "unique contribution to our understanding of one of the most important eras in recent American history."
The book details the height of the civil rights movement through the eyes of its icons as well as ordinary citizens. The ABA said it was singled out because it provided the most detailed account to date of King's struggle to hold the movement together; a thought-provoking analysis of the 1964 presidential race; new details on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's smear campaign against King, and "an exquisitely detailed behind-the-scenes" chronicle of milestone events.
Branch won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for his first book about the civil rights movement, "Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63."