A Tribute Fit for Dr. King

Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten.  A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present.

 Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)

Though I have attended numerous programs honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., including panel discussions, political forums, dramatic presentations and church services, King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis remains my favorite way to remember him.  I used to look forward to watching this documentary on the local PBS station every year.  Due to issues with the King estate, however, the broadcast rights became unavailable and the film disappeared.  Fortunately, the uncut, 185-minute version is screened occasionally – especially around the King Holiday and now throughout Black History Month.

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis chronicles Dr. King’s life and the civil rights movement from the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 to his assassination in 1968.  Watching the nonviolent protests that I had previously only heard and read about, I couldn’t and still cannot even begin to imagine the courage, commitment and self-control of those – many whose names we will never know – who willingly faced racial hostility in the forms of verbal and physical assaults, incarceration and sometimes death.  Recalling those warriors for justice and their sacrifices keeps in perspective how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

The documentary also offers glimpses of Dr. King not usually seen by the general public.  Insightful moments include Dr. King playfully saying, “Give me some sugar,” as he hugged a young admirer, and his humorous account of Rev. Abernathy praying with his eyes open during a riotous confrontation in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  It is particularly poignant to see Dr. King celebrate what would be his final birthday.

Whether it’s your first time or if it has been a long while, I strongly recommend that you see King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis.  If the film is not being shown in your area, the good news is that it is now available for purchase at http://afilmedrecord.com.  However you choose to view the film, it is well worth the extra effort.

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  1. Barbara Gomez
    February 5, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Thanks so much for this. I will purchase the video. I watched on television news some of the things that happened during the 1960s, and those images remain in my mind and heart. So much hard work and yet I sometimes wonder if the beneficiaries of it today have an appreciation.

    BG

    • February 5, 2011 at 11:40 am

      BG, I agree. It is so important to know our history and pass it on – continuously. If we don’t, who will? I look forward to your thoughts after you watch the movie.

  2. KB
    February 5, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    You know, I have seen so many different documentaries involving Dr. King and the civil rights movement, I can’t say if I remember seeing this one or not. I think I may have though because your reference to his last birthday rings a bell. It is always good to see the “behind the scenes” footage of a man like Dr. King because it really shows that even though he became a “larger than life” figure, at the end of the day, he was just as human as the next fellow.

    • February 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      Yes, Dr. King’s humanity is what struck me the most. I think that’s an aspect of him that often gets lost when the focus is on his holiday or the upcoming national memorial. I prefer thinking of him as a man who had a family, experienced frustration, grew weary and at times told jokes. That makes what he was able to accomplish even more inspiring.

  3. Lindy
    February 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the beautifully written reminder of this not so long ago historical account. I too am struck by the courage and faith these men and women possessed. We must not forget how they sacrificed for the opportunities we enjoy but many of them never lived to experience. Telling the story, living the dream and teaching the children are how we really pay tribute to Dr. King.

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