Thursday, May 14, 2015
"Selma" with David Oyelowo and Ava DuVernay (2014)
I barely finished watching this film. I grew up in a household where Martin Luther King was as revered as JFK. He was seen as the the primary hope for the future of those who were then termed "Negro" Americans. Selma and the events which took place on the Edmund Pettus Bridge were seen as righteous and necessary steps in the fight for integration. It is a primary event which was a turning point in the the struggle for Civil Rights.
I'm not going to review this movie. It's too important to too many people for me to knock it. I will only say that I was deeply disappointed in the treatment of then President Lyndon Johnson, who; although hardly a favorite of my generation due to the War in Vietnam; was nonetheless a shrewd and effective partner for the Civil Rights Movement and the Right to Vote. Here's why;
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed it did not address the Voting Rights aspect adequately. The choice was to get a Bill passed acknowledging the Civil Rights problem and demanding equality under the law. The strategy was that since the Southern states would not vote a law into effect that included the Voting Rights provision before the Presidential election, then the smartest way to go about effecting that change was to pass the overall bill first; and then take it to court for the Voting Rights aspect.
Of course this meant that the 1964 Presidential election would be up and gone by the time the voting issue was dealt with, but the reality was that; either way; African-Americans were going to have to sit that one out. If the 1964 bill had failed to pass then the next election African-Americans could hope to vote in would be 1968. The risk was in "overreaching" and failing.
The bill that passed offered the best way to ensure that they would get to vote by the 1968 Presidential election. Johnson had been a member of Congress and the Senate for almost 20 years before becoming President and knew how to work Congress and get what he wanted. By the time Selma rolled around Johnson was working Congress with his usual mixture of charm and threats to get the Voting Rights Act passed. The conflict in Selma was a necessary step to that end.
Here is the President's speech after the murder of Viola Liuzzo on March 26, 1965. Pay attention from 2 minutes and 26 seconds into the recording for the meat of this thing. Here is the President of the United States labeling the KKK as terrorists and hoodlums. He lets them know in no uncertain terms that the times they are a changing.
And for a little bit more information about Violo Liuzzo I have included this short but very informative little video about her, lest she get lost in history.