Elizabeth Carmona



  1. How is the narrative in Pillar of Fire advanced by Branch’s use of biographical sketches?
  2. How is this book different from the other books we have read thus far?  Can a book be commercially successful and an important historiographical contribution?
  3. What are some of the issues confronting delegates at the Conference on Religion and Race?  What, if anything, was solved by the end of the conference?
  4. Does Branch’s book present an alternative to the “top-down” approach?
  5. How does Branch juxtapose the trial of the men from Muslim Temple 27 with that of the young participants in the Birmingham March of 1962?
  6. How does the verdict in the John X. Norris trial undercut Elijah Mohammed’s belief that there could be no justice from the “white man’s court”? 99-100
  7. What prompts King’s exclamation “We’ve baptized Brother Wilkins?” 102
  8. To what extent does the Wilkins’ arrest prompt policy changes in the NAACP?
  9. Branch states, “For President Kennedy…the lesson here was that a neophyte young Negro was no pushover.” (110)
  10. How should we interpret John Kennedy’s feelings towards King in light of King’s refusal to visit the White House? 
  11. How does King’s relationship with Lyndon Johnson, and vice versa, spur dissent within the two men’s respective constituency?  How does their relationship evolve throughout the narrative?
  12. How should we compare and contrast the Kennedy Administration and the Johnson Administration reactions on the Civil Rights Movement generally, and King specifically
  13. How does Johnson develop his program on poverty and, eventually, his Great Society initiatives?
  14. Why are the Beetles important?  229
  15. How did a bill to introduce the language of gender equality into Civil Rights legislation gain support among Southerners in Congress?
  16. Why is it important that blacks and not women were summoned to the Beckwith jury? 231
  17. What causes Dr. Hayling to finally contact King about the problems in St. Augustine?
  18. What was the reaction of the SCLC and NAACP to Haylings appeal for intervention and support?  What does this say about the leading organizations during the Civil Rights Movement?
  19. How was a hung jury in the Beckwith trial a victory? 
  20. How did King figure into the divisions between Hoover, Robert Kennedy, and Johnson before and after the assassination of President Kennedy.
  21. How did King go from drawing a comparison between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon to John Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln? 248
  22. How does the conversion of Cassius Clay figure into the final break between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam?
  23. Was SNCC doomed once they abandoned their grassroots beginnings to become a top-down organization?
  24. Was Johnson’s decree to Southern Baptists the turning point in the role religion played during this time?
  25. How did the Cow Palace Convention change the relationship between blacks and the Republican Party? 
  26. Can a history of the Civil Rights Movement exclude Cold War Politics?  Do you agree with the amount of attention Branch gives the FBI wiretaps and Hoover’s almost obsession with finding Communist connections in the movement?
  27. Prof. Oakes said last semester-and I paraphrase-that the success of a movement is dependents on its ability to become a politicized.  Is this argument applicable to the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC?  Can it be applied to an individual like Malcolm X?
  28. How does Johnson’s new directive in Vietnam change the non-violence aspect of the Civil Rights Movement? 437
  29. How did the Atlantic City convention mark the transition of African Americans as a traditionally Republican constituency to a Democratic constituency, considering that many in the Civil Rights Movement found serious faults with both parties?
  30. What is the turning point in Johnson’s campaign?
  31. What finally eased King’s qualms over supporting Johnson? 
  32. Why did Hoover make his “notorious liar” comments when he did and what were its impact throughout the Civil Rights Movement?
  33. Is there a discernable moment that leads to the near collapse of the Civil Rights Movement? 
  34. How did Senator Kennedy’s observations of the Hoover-King meeting different from what was coming from the King Camp?
  35. According to Malcolm X, what splits the Muslim movement? 551
  36. Does Branch sufficiently discuss the role of gender in the Civil Rights Movement?
  37. Why does Branch mention that activities of Harry Belafonte, Jackie Robinson, and Sidney Poitier and do they help the narrative? 
  38. Does Branch’s desire to write a comprehensive narrative on the Civil Rights Movement run into the same problems as Alan Taylor’s book?  Are there parts of Branch’s book that are irrelevant?   
  39. How should historians classify a book like Branch’s?  Does it fall into a discernable framework?