Posts about college athletics appear separately on this site in the Ongoing Debate section under NCAA Sports.


Technology is changing the world of books rapidly for everyone, including authors, and I am rushing to catch up with novel aspects about this month’s publication of The King Years. One frontier innovation is the “enhanced” digital edition, which gives ebook readers access to audio and video illustrations of passages in the text.

Simon & Schuster has prepared this trailer of sample enhancements:


An activation link appears in the ebook text at the appropriate spot for each enhancement. Some of my favorite ones, not shown in this trailer, are audio/only excerpts of dramatic phone conversations with President Lyndon Johnson. I helped find and select the illustrations, but I admit seeing the final enhanced ebook only on our son Franklin’s iPad. Frankly, I’m a lifelong lover of hardcover print who has not quite accepted even regular ebooks, and I don’t own a device that can handle the enhanced version.

Inevitably, there are adjustments in new technology. I am told that the enhanced version works beautifully on popular platforms except for Kindle. Because Kindles can access only the ebook text, and some Kindle readers have been disappointed not to have the A/V enhancements, Simon & Schuster issued a guideline statement: *Audio/Video content only available for iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch devices in iBooks, or a Nook color/tablet (NOT Kindle).

This too will change, and enhanced ebooks probably will expand as publishers master the difficulties of locating and licensing A/V illustrations. Already, I hope, enhancements can help bring The King Years alive for new generations of teachers, students, and general readers. An author like me can describe in words the powerful influence of music in the civil rights era, but it is something else to hear our ebook enhancement of Rutha Harris leading a 1964 freedom workshop in “This Little Light of Mine.”


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The King Years by Taylor BranchI will teach a weekly history seminar this spring term at my home town University of Baltimore. The course will explore the modern civil rights era at its transformative peak, 1954-68.

University of Baltimore

This class will be experimental and exciting for me in several respects. Most important, the in-class seminar will be accessible without charge via Web connection to a selected group of registered auditors. They will pay no fees and receive no college credit. All we seek from auditors is candid feedback about the content and delivery of this special prototype course. […]

We hope to develop for the future an in-class seminar that can be shared via the Web by an expandable group of participants from diverse places and backgrounds, registered individually or through institutions for credit. Therefore, for this trial run, the University of Baltimore will accept interested auditors from a wide variety of groups: students and teachers (high school through college), non-degree candidates, general lay readers, and specialists in subject areas from race relations and social movements to government and nonviolence.

Several of the technical departments at the University of Baltimore have cooperated to make the in-class seminar available via the Web to registered auditors simultaneously, by live-stream connection, and also by delayed retrieval and review.

I have taught a similar course several times before, most recently last spring as a visiting Honors professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. Those courses carried intensive reading assignments from texts that included my 2,306-page King-era trilogy. This new course is designed to introduce the most salient events and issues through a more compact core curriculum. The weekly readings are built around the eighteen chapters of my newly released book, The King Years, which is a 190-page guided distillation of the longer work.

Information about the book is available from my website:

Information about the course, including registration for potential auditors, is available in the official announcement by the University of Baltimore. The seminar will meet on Wednesdays from 5:30-8:00pm, starting with an introductory session on January 23.


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Washington MonthlyThe current (January 2013) issue of The Washington Monthly Magazine contains a short article by Monthly editor Haley Sweetland Edwards and me, prepared as an interview during these past few hectic weeks.

I am especially pleased to have this article published to coincide with the release of my new book, The King Years. Long ago, when I was a graduate student who had not yet even thought of a writing career, the Monthly published excerpts from the diary I kept as an awed voter registration worker in southwest Georgia during the summer of 1969. […]

Those experiences in civil rights work and journalism opened new paths for me, and in the summer of 1970, on completing my graduate work, I took my first full-time job as an editor for The Washington Monthly. Its founder, Charlie Peters, became a lifetime mentor for me (and many others) in politics and journalism.

The current Monthly article tells one of many small stories buried in our forgetful history of the civil rights era: how Martin Luther King tried and failed to get President John F. Kennedy to abolish racial segregation by executive order in January of 1963, on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery.

Lincoln’s historic work to end slavery is very much remembered in contemporary culture through Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film, Lincoln. The unsuccessful collaboration between MLK and JFK is only a minor echo of that history, but it is well worth remembering in this month of poignant anniversaries about racial politics in 1863, 1963, and 2013. They are sketched in last week’s publication blog for The King Years.

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Simon & Schuster has announced a publication date of January 8, 2013 for my new book, The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement. The timing honors a month of epic anniversaries in the unfinished history of freedom in the United States. Consider these three:

1. 150 years ago, in January of 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared forever free nearly 4 million slaves then living under Confederate control. Two years later, as dramatized in the current Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln pushed through the 13th Amendment shortly before his assassination.

2. 50 years ago, in January of 1963, Democratic Governor George Wallace of Alabama delivered his defiant inaugural speech pledging, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” One century after the Civil War, Wallace tried and failed to preserve an old order of unequal rights in the midst of a citizens’ upheaval called the modern civil rights movement (1954-68).

3. Now, in January of 2013, a re-elected Barack Obama takes his oath as the first African-American President of the United States. Equal rights and opportunity have advanced broadly, perhaps miraculously in historical context, but racial issues still are muted as solved, unsolvable, or both. Group voting sharply divides the major political parties.


The King Years by Taylor BranchThis compact, 190-page book is a venture for our time of rapid change in communication. Professors and teachers long have complained that while story-telling history is accessible for their students, my multiple thick books are difficult to handle. From another angle, general readers who appreciate narrative have pressed for some distillation of key questions and lessons that have evolved over the thirty-plus years since I began research for Parting the Waters.

It was hard for me to revisit my work, in part because I believe personal detail is vital in cross-racial history. The goal here is to preserve detail from the original language of my civil rights trilogy, sometimes stitched together between volumes, achieving economy by painful selection among the stories told. There is literary blood on my office floor, but I take responsibility for the choices. Combined with new summary introductions for each chapter, which are necessarily more analytical, I aim to deliver accurate narratives that raise salient questions across the full sweep of the civil rights era.

For more information on the nature and content of The King Years, please consult Simon & Schuster’s full press release. Also, my introduction to the book is available for listening in a sample from the audio edition read by Leslie Odom, Jr. The current January 2013 issue of Atlanta Magazine contains an exchange on my personal background for the book since childhood in Atlanta. Finally, there is a January 5 pre-publication interview with Linda Wertheimer on NPR’s “Weekend Edition.”

Postings over the next few days will introduce other new projects related to the book. An enhanced digital edition, for instance, offers audio and video links to illustrate material in the text, including news footage, music, and excerpts from presidential recordings. On the educational front, I hope to build on experience as an adjunct teacher of civil rights history at Goucher College and the University of North Carolina. Starting in this spring semester of 2013, the University of Baltimore will offer to a potentially expandable group of on-line students my weekly seminar built around The King Years.

Thankfully, some things endure in the digital age. The civil rights era has kept me enthralled over a long career writing history. It remains an unsurpassed source of learning on our capacity for justice and free government.

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I took part in a panel discussion entitled “College Sports at a Crossroads: Entertainment or Education?” at the Aspen Ideas festival. Below is a short clip of Joe Nocera (New York Times columnist) and Craig Robinson (Oregon State head basketball coach). The 1 hour, 10 minute video is available with a subscription.

Nocera & Robinson: Student Athletes Only Taught Cynicism from on

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I leave today for public discussions this week on sports and education. These issues have exploded for me as a sideline since my capsule history of NCAA sports appeared last fall in the October issue of The Atlantic.

Tomorrow morning, in Dallas, I will appear at the national convention for all the college athletic directors in the United States. Here, on page 41 of a voluminous 58-page agenda, the panel features three respected sports leaders.

My role will be to explain and advocate the 3-point reform agenda I first presented in a blog this month. I am nervous in anticipation of controversy, as I will warn that the crucial reforms of transparency and balance are doomed until colleges recognize basic rights for their athletes. Moreover, I plan to argue that the vast majority of schools have blindfolded themselves unnecessarily, and corrupted their core educational mission, by tolerating national rules that impose “amateurism” on athletes to enrich only a hundred or so of the 1,200 NCAA schools among the nation’s 4,000+ colleges overall.

The next day, Thursday June 28, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, I join what should be a fiery panel, entitled, “College Sports at a Crossroads: Entertainment or Education?” Vice President Wallace Renfro will represent the NCAA. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera and I will renew our urgent criticism. Our fellow panelist Craig Robinson, the head coach for men’s basketball at Oregon State University, is better known nationally as the older brother of First Lady Michelle Obama. This conversation could go in a hundred directions. Most of them will be new to audiences, and we hope to find some clarity.

On Friday, from 5:30 to 6:30pm at Aspen’s Hotel Jerome, I will be in one-on-one public conversations with actress Anna Deavere Smith about sports as the window to possibly a larger crisis in higher education. Anna is a treasure of innovation for American theater and film. She is best known for her own one-woman plays in which she inhabits a panoply of real-life characters.

I met Anna about twenty years ago, when she was playing Anthea Burton in the Tom Hanks-Jonathan Demme film about AIDS, Philadelphia. She is from Baltimore, where I have lived the past 26 years. Beyond her stage talent, I admire Anna for her creative spirit of free inquiry into crucial dramas and issues in American life. She sees college sports in the larger framework of an impending crisis for higher education. I think she’s right. We’ll see how the illustrious and assertive Aspen audience responds.

Hidden away, largely out of public view, the vast majority of U.S. colleges still do emphasize classroom teaching within a student-centered governance and curriculum. These are the nation’s fast-growing community or “junior” colleges. Last week in Denver, I spoke to 400 students from their Phi Theta Kappa honors society. They were an inspirational group.

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Three-Point Reform Agenda for Sports in Higher Education

Three-Point Reform Agenda for Sports in Higher Education


At any college or university that hosts an intercollegiate sports program, the principal stakeholders must be assured candid, complete, and verifiable records for athletic revenues and obligations as well as for academic standards and performance. These records should be open for public inspection and accountability, subject only to appropriate privacy protections for the identity of individual students.

The body of sports stakeholders should include representatives of the school’s trustees and administrative leadership, its athletic department, its faculty, and students both on and off its sports teams.


Stakeholders must exercise joint responsibility for the separate spheres of academics and sports. To uphold integrity in both areas, they must manage conflict and competing goals.

They should, for instance, address in detail any variance allowed for athletic recruits in college admissions. More generally, they could allocate a percentage of sports broadcasting and advertising receipts to the academic budget. They could adjust the class calendar to accommodate seasonal demands on athletes, and take steps to encourage interaction in campus life between athletes and non-athletes. They should seek external alignments to compete athletically with schools of comparable balance and purpose, as reflected in conference rules.


Colleges and universities shall respect the basic rights of all students, applied consistently to athletes and non-athletes alike. On campus, as under the law, adult students retain the full attributes of citizenship. These include the rights and duties of informed consent, equal opportunity, representative government, and due process.

No freedom or right shall be abridged because of athletic status. To meet practical needs and aspirations, all students are eligible to seek fair compensation in full- or part-time jobs, entrepreneurial ventures, teaching appointments, work-study programs, and all other legitimate enterprise whether for or separate from their school.

Three-Point Reform Agenda for Sports in Higher Education (PDF)

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The past two weeks have been filled with heartache and joy related to our dear friend Dudley Clendinen, who died on May 30 only nineteen months after being diagnosed with the cruel affliction known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. My eulogy for him is posted in the previous blog. Several noteworthy events converged randomly and serendipitously, just as Dudley would have relished.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Photo from IMDB

Sadly, he did not quite make it to the show in Baltimore of the forthcoming film from Fox Searchlight, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Jed Dietz of the Maryland Film Festival worked diligently to arrange a closed screening while Dudley was still alive, because Dudley was so delighted for his young cousin Lucy Alibar, co-screenwriter of the film based on her stage play. Advance reviews are stunning, as Beasts has captured top prizes at both Sundance and Cannes. The theater release coming soon in July almost certainly will make new stars of the untrained lead actors, Dwight Henry and 6-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, while opening bright career doors for Alibar and the visionary director, Benh Zeitlin.

To safeguard public impact, and prevent pirate videos, gremlins confiscated for later return all cameras and cell phones from the lucky patrons who entered the June 5 screening. After the film, which transported viewers through a world of grim and fantastic apocalypse into the healing mysteries of nature, Lucy Alibar answered questions on stage in an interview with WYPR radio host Tom Hall. Emotions from the audience ran deep over the film as well as Alibar’s remembrances of the senior cousin she knew as “Unca’ Dudley,” whose funeral had taken place only the day before.

Tom Hall conducted a remarkable series of 25 public radio interviews with Dudley about his swiftly approaching death at the hands of the intimate killer he called “Lou.” Those conversations served as raw material for a book Dudley was writing until his final day. The book project had grown from a stark essay he wrote last July for his beloved New York Times, where Dudley had been a reporter in the 1980s. With its courageous reflections on how to die, his essay “The Good Short Life” attracted worldwide attention from terminal patients as well as ordinarily reluctant mortals. Algonquin Books, a division of the Workman Press, plans to publish Dudley’s posthumous memoir within a year.

In one of our closing moments, I got to pass along from Julian Bond the inside story of the NAACP’s surprise endorsement for full equality rights in gay marriage. This news was especially important to Dudley because of his youthful travail as a closeted homosexual and his mature work with Adam Nagourney of the Times as historians of the gay rights movement (Out for Good, 1999). The news was equally important to Julian, a pioneer of the civil rights movement and long-time Board chair for the NAACP, because of his long quest to make gender rights an issue of human freedom and respect like racial justice. Julian and I have been friends for nearly 45 years. At our home for dinner, with his wife Pam Horowitz, he told Christy and me of the parliamentary breakthrough at the NAACP Board’s May meeting—of the inspiration to embrace gay marriage not only in discussion but in a formal vote, and how he drafted a simple statement of principle that evaded snares over wording and procedure. Struggles continue as always, but word of the victory cheered Dudley, which cheered Julian, and should cheer us all for the long run.



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Published on 05 June 2012 by in General



By Taylor Branch

Cathedral of the Incarnation

Baltimore, MD

JUNE 4, 2012

         This bow tie is a first for me, courtesy of Jed Dietz.  It makes me feel more like Dudley, albeit with a good deal less of that shiny white hair.  A bit more courtly and charismatic, debonair, and slightly odd.  I can’t believe you’re gone, but then again, we saw what you went through with such graceful courage, and we celebrate your steadfast love to the end for this world’s zany, ornery, ever-blessed people.

Dudley was the quintessential fizz in life, serving up constant, mysterious bubbles of delight.  He was in the middle of everything, but also, simultaneously, a detached observer who turned every hardship and frustration into a doorway for affectionate wit.  He was impish and eccentric, like my own late father.  Everybody knows he was fun.  Even now, we hope to draw on his irrepressible spirit to help us through this moment.

Let us never forget, though, that Dudley’s life was full of trauma long before he met the disease he called “Lou.”  It is tempting to telescope gay progress in retrospect, and to forget unspeakable hell less than half a lifetime ago, but Dudley never did.  Here’s what he and Adam Nagourney wrote of their youth: “No one homosexual was celebrated in the American culture in 1969.  When they looked for information in libraries that year, they found clinical references and glum descriptions in journals of medicine and psychiatry, with a scattering of news items filed under such headings as ‘variant,’ ‘lesbian,’ ‘pervert,’ ‘sodomist,’ and ‘deviate’….Even the Village Voice, the chronicler of the New Left, found humor rather than history in the gay riot at the Stonewall.  ‘Wrists were limp, hair was primped,’ it reported…The Voice…disparaged homosexuals as ‘queers,’ ‘swishes,’ and ‘fags’.”   Their contemporaries often considered it better to be dead than to be gay, and a decade later along came AIDS to accommodate them like a guillotine cutting through hard-won prayers of optimism.  And for Dudley, all this was on top of his personalized struggles with alcohol and family upheaval, let alone our common woes of racism and war.  No wonder he gobbled up psychiatrists like vitamins.

I repeat, let us never forget.  It is precisely because of his travails that Dudley is so special.  He confronted, captured, and subdued them for adventure, which he shared with us all.  He always wanted to drive, for instance, and that scared us.  We prayed he would not be able to remember where he had parked one of his old clunker convertibles—forty feet long, with the throaty engine, wobbly hood ornament, and glove box full of parking tickets—but then we were off to somewhere.  Dudley was happiest when we were lost.   Because we weren’t.  For him, chaos was merely the occasion to kick-start a story, and every crisis became a wonder.  For the same reason, dinner could never be too late.  Christy and I used to sneak pocket snacks into his suppers on Bolton Hill, knowing it would be hours of mirth before Dudley would produce a trademark stew simmered forever in his stove-top armada of deep skillets.

More than profundity, Dudley milked an earthy connectedness from our various foibles and fussiness and feuds.  Famously, his toasts lifted all those present with an elegant caress for each person around the table.  Just last week, with his body shriveled to a sliver, he provided comfort and amusement when Steve Wigler turned up shaken at midnight with his windshield shattered by a wild turkey on the highway.  Here was a random, quirky drama, perfect for Dudley.

The “Lou” disease took his precious conversation toward the end, but never the written word.  Above all, Dudley was a writer.  I never saw him happier than when reading passages from his Canterbury tales book in public.  Only a few months ago, he wrote, “All of you know me well, manifold warts, whimsies and all.”  He fired off an email for help, writing, “Somehow I have vaporized my address book.”  He leaves his spirit with and in us from the page.

Here, from only nineteen months ago, he confronted an unknown affliction in a note to his students:   “for a long time, my voice had been getting balky. cranky. unreliable. sometimes it sounded like a granite wheel,. sometimes like diane rehm on steroids. and sometimes like a rusty hinge.

“well, it’s asthma, i  thought. or allergies. or acid reflux, for which  i take boatloads of prilosec. or the bad air in baltimore.  but it’s annoying to a recovering alcoholic to sound more and more like a raspy drunk. so in late may, i started seeing doctors. lots of doctors.”

Later in October of 2010, he approached his diagnosis in an email: “i saw my my new neurologist and had lab work thursday. had a brain MRI wednesday, which is a little like being trapped inside a philip glass symphony. wonderfully strange radio signal sounds. brain is fine – meaning no strange lumps. just ruined sinuses.

“the neurologist thinks my whole complex of symptoms, – breathlessness, fatigue, fading voice, thick tongue, loss of throat control, choking, strangling, etc,, (but unfortunately not dirty apt., piled up dining room table, lateness or other annoying habits) -  are all attributable not to my inflamed, drippy sinuses, or anemia, or reflux ,or severe iron deficiency, but to either lou gehrig’s disease or something called myasthenia (or miasthenia?) gravis. a disorder of the auto immune system.

“gravis is about 90% treatable. gehrig’s is about 100%^ untreatable.

“i regard this as good news, or at least good odds. he suspects it is gravis. i am hoping he is a smart doctor. i should know by wednesday.

“root for the latin.”

When the Latin failed, and Lou Gehrig’s disease was confirmed, Dudley instantly and characteristically embraced the story of his own demise in a riveting series of radio interviews with Tom Hall.  Thank you, Tom.  Thank you, Joshua, for giving us the inspiration of your care and devotion.  Thank you, Whitney, family and friends, and above all Dudley for love to the end.

Two weeks ago, he wrote to thank my wife for a photo of her mother’s 100 birthday:  “ohhh, christy -  thank you. i feel privileged. i have wanted for years to see your remarkable mother in her element. god, she has weathered well. what a tough, beautiful, classically yankee lady.  thank you for my flowers. i love the fact that you always do that. and now i see where it comes from.”

Last week, he wrote to celebrate our son’s graduation from law school:  “and i appreciate your note,” he concluded.   “to be con’td.”  And he signed off

“Lovedudley” in one word run together.  “Lovedudley.”  Like it should be, and will be.

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Author of “A Critique of the Misguided Calls to Give Up on the Student-Athlete Ideal”

Forgive me, blogosphere. Because of MLK Day and other obligations, I have neglected a month’s continuing fallout over my survey of NCAA college sports in The Atlantic magazine (“The Shame of College Sports,” October 2011 issue) and its expanded ebook The Cartel: Inside the Rise and Imminent Fall of the NCAA (published by

There have been many kind reviews and questions mixed with a steady stream of attacks. I have offered numerous comments on Twitter, which in itself has been an adventure in digital media for me. Previous blogs have included two exchanges with CBS Sports commentator Seth Davis.

I am glad that so many lawyers have entered the debate. Neil H. Buchanan, a prominent economist and law professor at George Washington University, posted a sweeping response to me in his January 5, 2012 “Verdict” column for Here is a link: Please read the full posting if you are interested in the NCAA controversy. Professor Buchanan reflects mainstream assumptions in sports culture as well as law. I am going to say very harsh things about his argument. Still, I do not wish to distort his position as I believe he distorts mine.

Buchanan makes three essential points. First, he dismisses my work as the product of “righteous anger,” extremism, compromised judgment, and a “morally repugnant” analogy between big-time college sports and the slave plantations of old. To do so in passing, he ignores substance and context along with my explicit qualifications.

Second, Buchanan declares a primary goal of reform to be the protection of college athletes from exploitation. I agree. From there, however, he focuses on physical exploitation (concussions, injuries, etc.) to the exclusion of other kinds of abuse. He glosses over the potential for economic, sexual, academic, or legal exploitation.

Most oddly, for a law professor, Buchanan never discusses legal redress. Not once does he discuss any rights by which college players could or should protect themselves like other citizens. Buchanan treats them as helpless ciphers rather than participants. Indeed, no baby in diapers could be more dependent, excluded, and voiceless than college athletes in his design for their welfare.

Third, Buchanan proposes one catchall solution. He says a strengthened and resolute NCAA should divert money from high-salaried coaches and bloated athletic budgets into scholarship support for higher education. This idea sounds noble until you think. It is irrelevant to his stated goal of protecting athletes. Legally, it overlooks antitrust decisions by the Supreme Court that prohibit collusive limits on sports earnings by colleges and their employees.

Buchanan’s proposal, even if it were practical, would do nothing but transfer funds from athletic departments into the academic reservoir from which he draws his own salary. Thus, by cant and paternalism, NCAA supporters perpetuate the abridgment of fundamental rights for college athletes.

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