Selma 2014 (PG-13)

I know some historians have panned this movie because they claim that LBJ did not oppose the Selma March, but I think he probably did drag his feet about it somewhat because I have heard some pretty racist quotes from him.  I think he was an opportunist who was more interested in capturing votes that passing the Voting Rights Act for its own merits.  This film created a firestorm of controversy, but I do think this film has some educational value because it showed some mistaken impressions about the Civil Rights Movement that some people have today:

1. Martin Luther King did not single-handedly lead the movement.  There were many other important leaders involved as well.

2. In addition to black protestors, many whites and other races were also involved in the marches, registration of voters, sit-ins, etc.
3. Not all white Southerners were for segregation.  Some opposed it and were glad to see it go.
4. Like Gandhi, MLK was a master at using the media to draw attention to his cause.  The turning point for many Northerners to begin to sympathize with the marchers was when they saw on TV the simple injustice of innocent people being treated like enemies and criminals simply for asking for rights they should have already had.
5. When I spoke to MLK's sister, she agreed that his position as a Christian minister was critical to his success as an eloquent orator and community leader.  MLK's faith is often left out of the story these days, but it was the bedrock of his beliefs and the reason why the movement prevailed.  The MLK story is inaccurately secularized by some modern day revisionists.  In fact, it was not called the Civil Rights Movement by the participants.  It was referred to as the Freedom Movement.  Religious songs, quotes from Scripture, and sermons figured prominently in the movement.

The film had a few anachronisms in terms of props, but nothing major.  It has some violence and foul language, but nothing excessive.  Everything included was pertinent to the story.  I don’t know if showing the entire film is justified due to the time constraints of a busy teacher, but using a few scenes would be worthwhile.  The most important value the film has is way that it depicts how bad things were under segregation.  Few modern students fully understand this.  It also shows that the Freedom Movement was a slow, gradual process.  Some students may get the mistaken impression these days that everything changed overnight after MLK gave the “I Have A Dream Speech”.  This film sets the record straight on that account.  Civil Rights workers that I have spoken to said the it took many years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act to get blacks registered and actually voting due to fear of reprisals from angry segregationists.

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