Friday, June 27, 2014

CNN: The Sixties: A Long March to Freedom (two hour documentary seems hurried)

CNN continued its series “The Sixties: The Decade that Changed the World” with a two-hour history of the Civil Rights movement, “A Long March to Freedom”, (link) covering the years 1960-1968. 

I wasn’t aware that President Kennedy seemed to keep the distance from this issue that he did.  There were bus rides from Alabama to Jackson, MS, where the federal government allowed the state to arrest and hold demonstrators on charges of threatening the peace, frankly taking into consideration racial feelings at the time.  The early part of the documentary covered the efforts of Bull Connor, essentially the sheriff of Birmingham, AL, to deny blacks their civil rights, especially during the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1963.

The film covers the early history of Dr. Martin Luther King, including arrests, and then moves on to account for the March on Washington in late August, 1963.  The documentary did not provide as much detail in covering the event as did some earlier films in 2013, timed with the 50th anniversary of the March.  All of this took the first hour.  Right as the second hour of the program starts, it mentions the Kennedy Assassination, which of course was covered in a different episode.  Lyndon Johnson was at first rather racist behind the scenes and somewhat disparaging in his use of the word “negro”, but after the tragedies of 1964 with the murder of civil rights workers during voter registration education in Mississippi, LBJ began to accept the idea that civil rights legislation was necessary.   The 1964 tragedy is covered in the PBS film “Freedom Summer’ (Movies blog, June 22).

The film moves on to cover the Selma-Montgomery marches in 1965, which were catalyzed by violence.   LBJ pushed for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which some people say conceded the South to the GOP for the next forty years.  

The end of the film makes the point that racism was also common in the north.  Tensions took new turns, as black power movements grew.  Toward the end, the film covers the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 (when I was in Army Basic) and the urban riots that would follow in Washington, Detroit and Chicago.   Detroit seems never to have recovered. 

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