Over at Religion in American History, Michael Hammond has published a two-part interview with Chappell. You can read Part I here. And here is a taste of Part II:
Hammond: So, getting at this broad and deep story, you wrote in your introduction that after the victories of the civil rights era, there is no heroic narrative. The years after King appear aimless, without one unifying force. As I read the book, this is not the story most of us have heard before: the story of busing, affirmative action, the Bob Jones case, for example. Those battles are left out of your book, probably intentionally. Does this aimlessness in the story point back to Martin Luther King as an exemplary leader? Or is this just the random nature of history as it unfolds in different times?
Chappell: There is a narrative thread through the story I tell in the book. Many people saw themselves carrying on Martin Luther King’s unfinished business, even in cases where they came to disagree with him. Martin Luther King’s name signifies changes in our social and political system. And he wasn’t finished. If you pay any attention to what he actually said before he died, he was nowhere near. That gives the story a kind of coherence, but I don’t want people to go away with that as the point of the story.