• Parting the Waters

  • America in the King Years, 1954-63
  • By: Taylor Branch
  • Narrated by: Joe Morton, CCH Pounder
  • Length: 6 hrs and 43 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 04-27-00
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.4 (205 ratings)

Regular price: $19.93

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Publisher's Summary

This audio adaptation focuses primarily on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the key moments that defined his rise to the forefront of the civil rights movement. From Rosa Parks' monumental arrest in Montgomery to King's imprisonment in Birmingham and his triumphant march on Washington, Taylor Branch provides an unsurpassed portrait of King's rise to greatness. He illuminates the stunning courage and private conflict, the deals, maneuvers, betrayals, and rivalries that determined history behind closed doors, at boycotts and sit-ins, on bloody freedom rides, and through siege and murder.
Parting the Waters is the first volume in Taylor Branch's three-volume history, America in the King Years. Don't miss Pillar of Fire or At Canaan's Edge.
©1998 Taylor Branch, All Rights Reserved (P)1998 Simon & Schuster Inc., All Rights Reserved, AUDIOWORKS is an Imprint of Simon & Schuster Audio Division, Simon & Schuster Inc.
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Critic Reviews

Pulitzer Prize Winner, 1989, History
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By warty bloggin on 02-11-13

Badly/horribly abridged

Read the book and loved it; one of my alltime favorites. The abridged audio version, however, robbed this extraordinary story of much of what made the book great. The written book's power, in part, comes from Branch's movement between different levels of narrative, as he weaves details of MLK's life and the stories that surround him into the larger historical narrative that we think we all know. In the abridged audio version, the complexity and texture of many of those details are gone. Most egregiously, gone is the entire 240 page section from the start of the Montgomery bus boycott until 1962, including the relationship between the Eisenhower administration and civil rights and MLK, MLK's movement into the national spotlight, most of the background about the civil rights movement before MLK, Dubois, the NAACP, the momentous JFK call to Coretta Scott King when MLK was in jail and the start of the sit-in movement. Even the story of Rosa Parks is given short shrift.

Gone as well are the personal and social struggles involving nonviolence (James Lawson disappears, MLK loses his personal and theologic struggles over issues of justice and much of his reading of Niebuhr) and a myriad of details about MLK's early life (no church choir singing controversially at the debut of 'Gone With the Wind'), the role of Gandhism and church politics. The Rockefeller role in funding Spellman and Morehouse colleges is gone.

The effect is to make it seem that MLK's story only gets interesting when he becomes a player in J. Edgar Hoover's and JFK's and RFK's world of interagency rivalry and high politics. The written book made it clear that the world of Washington DC was only one of many settings in which meaning was made and, in fact, played the many levels of action off against each other beautifully. That beauty is gone from the abridged audiobook, as is the depth of historical understanding that the written book provided. Not worth my money.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Darcy on 05-31-03

Amazing account of King & Civil Rights Movement

First, the one negative: the sound quality is terrible.

But the content itself is terrific. Branch makes the Civil Rights Movement come vividly to life, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr becomes a fully realized person to the listeners. The narraration is well done, and the whole experience a good one -- apart from the lousy sound quality of the recording. (As of this review, it's only available in format 1, converted to format 2, but is very tinny and hard to hear in places like a car.)

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By Dr Timothy P Halford on 05-15-18


This isn't the book as described. It's abridged so much that most of it is missing and key elements don't make sense

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1 out of 5 stars
By Amazon Customer on 02-18-15

AWFUL! A great book sliced to pieces

What disappointed you about Parting the Waters?

The problem with this book is the absolutely terrible abridgement. It isn't really abridged, but at best you are getting some parts of the book that talk about Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps a sample of the book. For instance, there is a great deal of detail on King's background and his arrival in Montgomery; Rosa Parks refuses to sit at the back of the bus; King speaks to the protestors... then suddenly the narrative leaps forward from 1954 to 1962 and the Albany protests. There's no discussion of the progress of the bus boycott, no discussion of King's involvement in the founding of the SCLC, simply a void. The narrative informs us King is arrested AGAIN... but he has not been arrested before in this narrative... I thought there was something wrong with my download. What you get with this audiobook is much the equivalent of the preview of a kindle book. It gives you a flavour of the book but you can't really follow the book. To give a good sense of how much is missing: Gordon Wood's Empire of Liberty is around 778 pages and the audiobook is 30 hours 58 minutes; Parting the Waters is over 1000 pages but the audiobook is 6 hours 43 minutes. Perhaps you are getting 20% of the book. Is that an abridgement? The fact that this book is shown with reviews from Amazon and with the same title and cover as the print book and described as Pulitzer Prize winning is very misleading.

What will your next listen be?

Not an 'abridged' book!

Did Joe Morton and CCH Pounder do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

I didn't know they were supposed to be different characters. I found the switching backwards and forwards a little annoying, although I didn't find the audio quality as bad as some other people.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

ANGER at the publisher

Any additional comments?

This has taught me to do my homework before buying an abridged book. This series in print was excellent. Please get out an unabridged version soon!

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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