Tom Brokaw Remembers MLK

May. 21, 2008
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Forty years after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., a black man stands a chance of becoming President. Perhaps America has finally become the Promised Land King foretold in one of his much quoted sermons—a land he somehow knew he would never live to see.

Since his retirement from NBC News, Tom Brokaw has become the voice of several interesting cable documentaries on recent American history. His latest, “King,” out now on DVD, surveys the career of an accidental revolutionary. At the start of a career as a pastor, King was pushed into the leadership of the nascent Civil Rights Movement by the Montgomery Bus Boycott against that city’s policy of restricting blacks to the back of public transport. Soon enough, he shouldered the heavier burden of challenging centuries of deeply ingrained racism. From early on he was pursued by hellhounds of violence. Death was a threat his enemies were prepared to deliver.

The footage included in Brokaw’s documentary, originally shot for TV newscasts, captures the viciousness of the assault against King and his supporters, both from the police and white citizens clinging to a morally indefensible definition of the American way of life. King was determined from the onset to travel the high road. Influenced by Gandhi’s non-violent campaign for Indian independence and drawing from the social dimension of the Judeo-Christian tradition, King was able not only to mobilize his own people but the sympathy of a wider public.

The legacy of Martin Luther King can be measured by the diversity of people Brokaw interviewed for “King,” including politicians such as Bill Clinton and Condoleezza Rice and musicians ranging from Harry Belafonte to Bono and Chuck D.

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