Day By Day

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bad Historian..., Bad..., Bad!

Ask a member of the reading public, a PBS viewer, or the MSM to name a definitive study of the mid-Twentieth Century Civil Rights movement and they will probably respond by citing Taylor Branch's Pulitzer Prize winning trilogy on America in the King Years: Parting the Waters; Pillar of Fire; and At Canaan's Edge.

These immensely popular volumes have been hugely influential in shaping our perception of the middle decades of the Twentieth Century, but are they accurate?

The answer is a resounding "No!"

Ralph Luker, himself a noted civil rights historian, writes:
Branch is a brilliant writer, but put your finger on any page in his civil rights trilogy, give me some time, and I'll find the errors.
Read it here.

The comments come in a description of Branch's most recent effort: a series of secret interviews he conducted with Bill Clinton during the 1990's. They will be published under the title Wrestling History: The Bill Clinton Tapes, despite the fact that Branch has no tapes of the interviews. They were confiscated by Bill Clinton who stashed them in his sock drawer!!! No telling where they might be now.

Knowledgable persons within the historical profession are well aware of Taylor Branch's shoddy work. It is time that the general public be made aware of the same.

The whole point of peer review is to guarantee the validity of information dispensed by scholars. Here, as in so many cases, the process has broken down and inferior work has been certified and granted status it does not deserve.

No comments: