Monday, January 19, 2004

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. in His Own Words: "Beyond Vietnam" and I Have Been to the Mountaintop"

    Mlkspecial

    Today is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Day. He was born in 1929. Last week, he would have turned 75 years old.

    It’s become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of his birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

    The remarkable thing about this annual review of King’s life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

    What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

    An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn’t take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

    Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they’re not shown today on TV.

    In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.