A List of Documentaries For Viewing To Commemorate Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Everyone enjoys a holiday, but some holidays bring with not only the pleasures of a day off from work, but a measure of grief, as well.
Such is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, a national holiday designated to commemorate a great American leader who was slain while trying to move our nation along the path to true equality of opportunity, always through nonviolent means.
The assassination of MLK brought shock and despair to people of good conscience around the globe. It is fitting that all those who celebrate this fallen hero on his holiday recall the feeling of devastation that shrouded the world when he was killed, and reflect deeply on his vision, his beliefs and his mission. Take time during Martin Luther King, Jr., Day to learn more about the man, his life and times. An ideal way to do that is through watching documentaries. The following annotated list of suggestions includes films that are enlightening, engaging and entertaining. Watch, weep, enjoy, raise your awareness about Martin Luther King, Jr., and make a commitment to keep his vision and mission alive.
- The Witness From the Balcony of Room 306 - Filmmaker Adam Pertofsky's stirring Oscar-nominated 32-minute documentary short about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., features eyewitness testimony by Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles, a close friend and colleague of Dr. King's, who was standing beside Dr. King on the balcony outside room 308 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, when the beloved civil rights leader was slain on April 4, 1968. The film also presents archival footage of Dr. King's impassioned and very moving speeches. Read my review. Now available on DVD.
- Freedom Riders - Chronicling the nonviolent struggle for civil rights in the United States, Stanley Nelson's documentary covers the six month period from May until November of 1961, during which some 400 black and white Americans made it their integrated mission to challenge racial segregation in America's South. The documentary shows how the Freedom Riders met with mob violence from racist whites on every leg of their journey, and, although they remained nonviolent, were imprisoned for breaking local Jim Crow laws. Read my review. Now available on DVD
- Neshoba: The Price of Freedom - Martin Luther King, Jr., was not the only hero slain during his nonviolent quest for civil rights. Civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were brutally murdered in 1964, while they were participating in a protest demonstration against segregation in the South. This documentary chronicles reactions to the State of Mississippi's eventual indictment and trial of 80 year old racist preacher Edgar Ray Killen, the alleged mastermind behind the murders. The indictment, some 40 years after the killings, shows the controversy about whether the belated revelation of truth and consequent punishment will bring reconciliation to the community or ignite residual racial tensions. The film is a fascinating look at current racial relations in America's South. Read my full review. Now available on DVD
- Sing Your Song - The enormously gifted, highly respected Harry Belafonte is perhaps best known as an actor and singer, but he really deserves equal recognition for his tremendous contributions as a leading civil rights activist. Belafonte has stood along side of Martin Luther King, Jr., and other heroic leaders in the struggle to attain equal civil right in the United States, and has worked tirelessly for racial equality around the world. Filmmaker Susanne Rostock's fine biographical documentary of Belafonte's life and career sets his achievements into historical context, and serves as a well deserved tribute to the talented entertainer and world class civil rights activist. Read my full review. Now available on DVD.