Annual Beall-Russell Lecture to Feature Author Taylor Branch

Oct. 24, 2007
News Photo 4296Taylor Branch, author of America in the King Years. photo courtesy of J. Brough Schamp.

by Paige Patton, communication specialist, (254) 710-3321

Taylor Branch, author of the best-selling trilogy America in the King Years, will deliver Baylor University's annual Beall-Russell Lecture in the Humanities at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, in room 510 of the Cashion Academic Building in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Branch's trilogy details the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. during the American Civil Rights Movement. The trilogy's first volume, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, won a Pulitzer Prize for History, a Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the English-Speaking Union Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Volume two, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65, won the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, the Imus Book Award and the Sidney Hillman Book Award. The final volume of the trilogy, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68, was published in 2006 and has been nominated for multiple awards.

"Branch has an intricate knowledge of Martin Luther King Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement and will provide historical commentary of crucial time in American history," said Dr. Kimberly Kellison, associate professor of history and chair of the Beall-Russell Lectures. "This topic is so important for students to understand--they didn't live through that tumultuous time period. Branch will offer a deeper understanding and a more complex presentation of facts that will stimulate thought-provoking discussion."

Kellison said the topics of racial issues and questions about prejudice that Branch will discuss are ongoing today; they have not only historical resonance but also modern day application that extends beyond the campus to the community at large.

Branch also has authored The Empire Blues, Second Wind, Blind Ambition and Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public Interest. He served in editorial positions for Harper's and The Washington Monthly and has published widely in news journals and magazines. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal, Branch received a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master's degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He resides with his family in Baltimore.

The Beall-Russell Lectures in the Humanities were established in 1982 with a financial gift from Virginia Beall Ball of Muncie, Ind. She named the lecture series in honor of her mother, Mrs. John A. Beall, and Lily Russell, former dean of women at Baylor, both Baylor alumnae of the Class of 1910.

"Mrs. Ball was concerned that the lecturers speak from their topics of expertise and relate them to the current state of humanities," Kellison said. "Branch's topic fits that perfectly--it is an interplay among different disciplines in the humanities."

The purpose of the lectures is to provide an opportunity for Baylor students and faculty to meet and hear lecturers renowned in the humanities. Past lecturers have included poet Maya Angelou, journalist Bill Moyers and Nobel Prize winner for Literature Czeslaw Milosz.

For more information, please visit the Beall-Russell Lecture web site at or call Kellison at (254) 710-6302.

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