Taylor Branch’s incredible series on Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement spans three volumes. It’s almost 3000 pages with hundreds of footnotes. It won awards like the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. More importantly, it’s really, really good—a must-read for anyone trying to understand social change or American history.
Undoubtedly, Branch is quite pleased with this masterwork of literature, which he spent untold hours researching, writing, editing, and talking about. Surely, the sales have been some reward for that work. But there is a note tucked away in the acknowledgments of the final volume that truly captures both the experience and family effort such an achievement entailed. “Our son, Franklin,” Branch writes, “who was born weeks before my first trip to the Lorraine Motel, finished college in time to help me with my final research.”
From idea to published works, from birth to adulthood—the books and his son developed and entered the world on similar trajectories. We talked recently about those great moments in sports where the first thing an athlete does after reaching the mountaintop is reach for their kids. The truth is, though, that their kids were there all along—if they were doing it right. Your kids are with you on this. They are a part of the journey, whatever it is.
It can be so easy to see your career as you. It’s not. It’s a family affair. And the more you can be involved with each other the better. It makes the accomplishments sweeter, the work more complete…and the sacrifices less painful.