King (1978)

 

 

Director:     Abby Mann. 

Starring:     Paul Winfield (Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.), Cicely Tyson (Coretta Scott King), Roscoe Lee Browne (Philip Harrison), Lonny Chapman (Chief Frank Holloman), Ossie Davis (Rev. Martin Luther King Sr.), Cliff De Young (Robert F. Kennedy), Al Freeman Jr. (Damon Lockwood), Clu Gulager (William Sullivan), Steven Hill (Stanley Levison), William Jordan (John F. Kennedy), Warren J. Kemmerling (Lyndon Johnson), Lincoln Kilpatrick (Jerry Waring),  Kenneth McMillan (Bull Connor), Howard E. Rollins Jr. (Andrew Young), David Spielberg (David Beamer), Dolph Sweet (J. Edgar Hoover), Dick Anthony Williams (Malcolm X).

story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

 

Part I. 

Dr. King is in Memphis and is being abused by the blacks in that city.  They even push him down.  The situation gets out of hand and his staff commandeers a car to get King out of there.  They push him inside.  They follow another car out of the main riot area.  King is upset.  He see blacks being beaten and other blacks breaking the windows of local stores.  Policemen are arresting blacks.  One man has been killed and his body is being outlined with chalk by a policeman. 

King is very depressed about what happened.  Senator Robert Byrd condemns the actions in Memphis and condemns the role of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Martin's father is very angry as he talks with his daughter-in-law about his son.  He says they are destroying his son.  Coretta tells her husband that it wasn't his fault.  He's upset that Byrd has told people that he is responsible for the deaths of those who died in the riots.  She asks him if he is going to Louisville, Kentucky.  He's not so sure now.  Coretta tries to cheer up her husband. 

The Poor People's March on Washington is being planned.   Andy Young says it's been twelve years of the movement and King is exhausted.  Coretta thinks about the things that have happened to her husband and her.  They had their house bombed, Martin was stabbed with a knife and he was arrested more than 120 times.  She thinks back to the time that it all began. 

Flashback.  Boston University. February 3, 1952.  Martin telephones Coretta saying that a mutual friend of theirs, Gloria McGrew, has been talking to him about Coretta.  He asks her when he will be able to see her?  They arrange a luncheon date.  Coretta has never heard of Martin's father, Martin Luther King, Sr., who is the most renown black preacher in Atlanta, Georgia.  Gloria tells her that Martin Jr. is going to be a minister and Coretta says that's all she needs, a Baptist preacher. 

Martin comes to pick up Coretta.  They go to a diner.  She tells Martin she is from a little town known as Heiberger, Alabama.    She wants to be a concert singer and is studying the performing arts.  She also talks about seeing the great black singer and actor Paul Robeson who came to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  She is now in Boston, Massachusetts after winning a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music.  As he drives her back to her dorm room, Martin says to her:  "You know, I'm probably going to marry you."  He says she has everything a man would want in a woman. 

At a party Coretta and Martin talk about religion and preaching.  Coretta has been involved in civil rights and Martin tells her that the church will be a big part of any movement toward greater freedom for blacks.  He wants a good-sized church in the South.  But Coretta still has her doubts about Martin.  She says she will be his girl while school lasts, but then they will go their separate ways.   She's scared because she feels that Martin is asking her to give up all she has strived for to be his wife.  Martin tells her to come with him to Atlanta to meet his parents.  If she does not, he will never see her again. 

So Coretta goes to Atlanta with Martin.  Martin Sr. is not pleased when he learns Coretta wants to be a concert singer.  And Coretta is not pleased with him either.  She believes he is a tyrant, but Martin Jr. says his dad is a loveable tyrant.  Cory (short for Coretta) says that she does not find his father so loveable.  Martin Jr. works on his father and one day dad comes out of a conference with his son to tell Coretta:  "All right, you're gonna be in the family."

Montgomery, Alabama.  1955.  Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on the first day of December.  The scene is shown when she refused to get up from her seat.  Rosa is arrested.  The black community starts a bus boycott.  There will be a meeting on the boycott at the Holt Street Baptist Church.  The man who bailed out Rosa Parks, Mr. Corbin, suggests that they elect Martin president of their group.  He says that the establishment hasn't had a chance to get to Martin.  Another man stands up and nominates Martin to be president.

Back home Martin tells Coretta about being selected to be the president.  He just doesn't think he's up to the challenge.  Mr. Corbin comes to get Martin to have him speak to the congregation of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.  King speaks of Rosa Parks and people getting tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression.  He gets a huge applause and everyone stands up and cheers him on.   The black community stays off the buses. 

A Mr. Damon Lockwood, lecturer and writer, and Mr. Stanley Levison, an attorney, come to Martin's home.  The two men say that King has effectively used the boycott for the first time in the South and they want to help Martin keep the success going.  Martin has to leave the two men behind in his home because he has to go to the church. 

King attends the meeting with city officials about the boycott.  He objects to the presence of a member of the racist White Citizens' Council.  The whites say they resent this accusation.  They also say they cannot change the seating arrangements because such a change would violate the laws of segregation.  And they refuse to hire any black bus drivers.  After the meeting, Levison tells King that it's some type of progress that at least for the first time a Southern city council met with a black protest group. 

At night a bomb is thrown at the King house.  King rushes home to Cory and asks about Yolanda.  She is all right too.  The black community is outside the home and are all riled up.  The police ask Dr. King for his help in cooling down the crowd.  Some people have weapons.  King speaks to them and gets them to disperse.  In bed at night Martin tells Cory to take Yolanda and go live with his father for awhile.  Cory refuses, saying she can't leave Martin alone. 

King learns that they have arrested Rev. Ralph Abernathy.  And the police have warrants to arrest all of the boycott leaders.  Martin tells the police he is going in to see Ralph Abernathy.  They tell him he is not.  He tries to force his way in and gets arrested.  King is found guilty.  He refuses to pay the $10 dollar fine.  Martin is taken back to his cell.

The city authorities let King go to avoid publicity.  A carpool system is used by the blacks to get their people to and from work and other destinations.  The police respond with a number of arrests of drivers for minor or even imaginary traffic violations. 

The bus boycott has lasted for over a year.  The city was constantly harassing the boycott leaders with one action after another.  They declared the carpool system illegal and demanded that the blacks pay the bus company for their losses to the tune of $15,000 dollars.  Then comes down the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court declaring Alabama's state and local laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional. 

Many of the boycott leaders take the first integrated bus ride.  Coretta says from that time Martin felt that anything was possible. 

Harlem, New York.  September 20, 1958.  Martin is autographing copies of his book for book purchasers.  A woman comes up to him and says:  "I've been looking for you for such a long time."  She stabs Martin in the chest with a knife.  The knife was actually touching King's aorta and the doctors had to remove two ribs in order to get the knife free.  Coretta comes in to see Martin in the hospital.  She tells Martin that his would-be assassin said that Martin was the devil and that God asked her to kill him. 

King tells his church congregation that he is resigning as their pastor, because he has to devote just too much time to the civil rights movement.  Martin Sr. gives his son some loud advice and then yells at Martin Jr.'s brother.  King takes his brother downstairs to get away from dad. 

Coretta finds a really nice house in a very nice neighborhood in Atlanta, but Martin feels it is too high class for him.   Martin finds a run-down house and buys it.  Later Julian Bond asks Martin to help change the segregation rules at Karr's Department Store.  Martin agrees and backs the effort  to desegregate the fine restaurants at Karr's.  Martin and the others refuse to leave and everyone is arrested.  In jail, everyone is let out except for Martin. 

One night they transfer Martin to another prison.  Martin is filled with fear for he thinks they might be going to take him out into a deserted area and kill him.  King is very relieved when he finally sees the Reidsville State Prison sign.  Senator John F. Kennedy telephones Coretta to ask if he can be of assistance to her and Martin in any way.  Coretta thanks him for calling her.  King gets out of prison with Kennedy's help. 

May 4, 1961.  Andrew Young is helping to desegregate the buses on routes going over state lines.  They come into Montgomery, but the police have not shown up to provide them with protection.  When the bus stops the white males start pulling out the bus riders and beating them with clubs and pipes.  Even the bus driver is pulled out and beaten.  Bobby Kennedy asks Martin to stop these freedom rides.  He says right now there is a group of freedom riders in a Montgomery church surrounded by a white mob that wants to kill them!  One of the black leaders says:  "Let them kill them."   His point is that blacks are dying all over the South everyday, so what's so important about these freedom riders.  King is disappointed at the lack of progress with President Kennedy. 

King flies down to Montgomery.  He is driven up to the church where the freedom riders are being held.  He walks up the steps and goes into the church.  Bobby Kennedy orders every federal marshal in Alabama into Montgomery.  Soldiers have to force the white mob back to get King and the freedom riders out of the church. 

Southern Christian Leadership Conference Headquarters, Atlanta, Georgia.   Damon Lockwood tells King that they found the bodies of three civil rights workers, Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, buried in a dam in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  And police officers were involved in the murders.  So King goes to Philadelphia, Mississippi.  The FBI down there are not going to be of much help, since they are part of the white racist community there. 

King and other black leaders are harassed by a white mob in Philadelphia.  Andy Young gets punched in the face.  Other leaders are kicked.  The crowd even attacks the FBI who are photographing members of the mob and taking notes.  King is really angry and wants to take on the racist J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.  Lockwood warns King of taking on Hoover.  Even presidents are afraid of Hoover, he says.  Hoover calls in the press to tell them that King is the most notorious liar in the United States.

 

Part II. 

Birmingham, Alabama, April 3, 1963.  King is riding with Levison, Lockwood, Andrew Young and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth checking out Birmingham.  They see the notorious Bull Connor, Commissioner of Public Safety of Birmingham.  The man is the epitome of the Southern red-neck.  At one time he was a very popular sports announcer.  Levison knows Connor from way back, when the Bull was a first class strikebreaker.  Lockwood says if they can desegregate Birmingham, they can desegregate the entire South.  King says he is going to make the most of the medium of television.  He adds:  "I'd like the rest of the country to see what we've seen all our lives.  Television is going to be the medium in which we're going to bring this country face-to-face with itself."

King goes to see his brother A.D.  He wants to have A.D. give him one of his special introductions tonight before the congregation of the church.  But A.D. says they asked him to resign from his position in the church.  King says no one will ask him to resign, because he is going to give a brilliant introduction for his brother tonight.   And A.D. does do a good job in his own charming, loveable way.  King gets up and starts speaking.  A white man gets up from his seat and walks down the aisle, over to the steps, goes up on the platform and punches King in the gut and the face.  The congregation gasps and black men run up to subdue the big white man.  King tells them not to hurt him.  He uses the incident to reinforce his idea of non-violence.  He could have had the man hurt, he tells the congregation, but he won't. 

A group of protestors with Rev. Shuttlesworth are marching in the streets.  Bull Connor uses his police force to push the demonstrators up against the side of the buildings on the street.  He then has the police take down the the names of every demonstrator.  He scolds Rev. Shuttlesworth, but he stands up to the man of hate, saying:  "We gonna shut down Birmingham.  We gonna integrate it."  Bull tells the reverend that he has an injunction from Judge Jenkins banning all demonstrations.  He asks the reverend to disband the group.  The reverend won't do it, so Bull has everyone thrown into a paddy wagon. 

Bobby Kennedy tells King this isn't the time to shut down Birmingham.  King rightly says:  "It's never the time."  He tells Bobby they can't stop now and hangs up on him.  Bobby asks JFK what should they do now?  JFK says truthfully:  "Same thing we always do  --  nothing." 

A group of white reverends come to tell King to stop the demonstrations.  King says:  "I can't understand you.  You're clergymen.  . . . how can you stand there and preach to your congregations about Jesus?"  A clergyman says that everything King is doing here is illegal.  King has a good retort:  "And everything that Adolph Hitler did in Germany was legal!"  He properly scolds them for their indifference to injustice. 

Another group of demonstrators start demonstrating.  This time Bull has the firemen turn the hoses on the demonstrators.  Of course, all this is caught on television to the detriment of Birmingham.   It just makes the police look like a bunch of bullies and thugs.  Next comes a large group of children marching.  The fire hoses are turned on them and dogs are used to scare the wits out of the children.  They panic and run.  The police start running after them with their dogs. 

JFK and RFK watch the terrible scenes on television and JFK says:  "Bull Connor may be the best ally the Civil Rights Movement every had."  King thinks that he should be in jail like so many other demonstrators.  His staff say they need him to help raise bail money, so they can get those people out of jail.  MLK dresses in plain clothes, blue shirt and blue jeans, and goes out to demonstrate.  Rev. Ralph Abernathy goes with him.  They go to a square where a lot of blacks are protesting.  The police immediately grab MLK and Abernathy.  RFK telephones Coretta for his brother.  He promises her he will let her know if he hears anything.  At dinnertime the next day JFK calls Coretta.  He tells her the Justice Dept. checked on her husband and he is all right.  

The demonstrators in the square are now told to get up and get out of here!  Andrew Young asks the police lieutenant if they could walk to the jail and just say a few prayers on this Easter Sunday.  Bull arrives demanding to know the reason for the delay.  He wants the fire hoses turned on these people.  But this time no one follows his orders.  The demonstrators walk through the police lines and head to the jail peaceably.  MLK and Abernathy are released from jail. 

MLK desegregated the "toughest" town in the South.  Hundreds of cities throughout the South now desegregated because of Birmingham. 

MLK gets a phone call telling him to come back to Birmingham.  The racists have bombed Rev. Cross's church and four little girls attending Sunday school there are dead.  MLK is the pastor at the funeral ceremony.  JFK decides to speak out for the cause of civil rights and to say that segregation is wrong.  Some of his advisors warn against this, but JFK won't be stopped.  He speaks of going to Congress for civil rights legislation. 

J. Edgar Hoover demands that his man William Sullivan find evidence to prove King is a communist and that the movement is riddled with communists.  But Sullivan concludes that there is no evidence of such connections.  The racist Hoover is really angry.  Hoover says this is just like the Castro case, where originally he was thought not to be a communist.  He says this is a disappointment to him.  To punish Sullivan, Hoover just stops talking to the man and he soon gets the message.  So Sullivan does another report, this one emphasizing the communist role in the civil rights movement.  Sullivan goes in all apologetic to Hoover to report that King is the most dangerous "Negro" to the future of this nation.  Then Hoover has the nerve to say:  "I can't understand how you can so agilely switch your thinking."   Sullivan now launches a huge investigation into the dealings of MLK.   

King finds that his own son is afraid of him.  Coretta talks to her son and he tells her that the kids at school make fun of him because of his dad.  They say MLK is a jailbird.  Coretta explains why dad goes to jail. 

King thanks JFK for his civil rights speech.  The Kennedys tell King that Hoover says Stanley Levison is a communist.  King defends the man, but listens to RFK when he says that King will have to let Levison go for the sake of the movement.  King tells Levison.  Levison is very understanding.  Before he leaves he says:  "It's been the most inspiring experience of my life."

August 28, 1963.  The day of the March on Washington, a civil rights movement march.  Some 250,000 people gather around the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Monument.  King gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.  "I have a dream that my four littler children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  I have a dream today!" 

Shortly after the big march, JFK is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.  King says:  "That's the way I'm going to go."  He also says he won't reach his 40th birthday. 

The new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, invites King to the oval office.  He tells King that together they are going to do some great things for civil rights. 

MLK receives the Nobel Peace Prize.  Mrs. King finds out first.  She calls her husband who is still sleeping and tells him.  At first he doesn't believe her.  He has to call her back.  He thought he was dreaming. 

Hoover sends out a report damning King for his connections to communism.  A furious RFK balls him out for doing so.  He calls the report character assassination, full of gossip and hearsay.  Hoover says they need to know what they are up against before the crisis comes.  The crisis will be the black insurrection.  RFK says he wants Hoover to get back every copy he send out.  Hoover resorts to one of his favorites tactics:  blackmail.  He reminds RFK that he himself personally authorized wiretaps on his friend Dr. King and he has the signed copy.  RFK still demands that Hoover get back the copies. 

At a dinner honoring King for his Nobel Prize, King's father toasts to God for giving him his son, Martin Luther King, Jr. 

King gives a speech in Oslo, Norway where he receives his award.  An official in Birmingham tries to stop blacks from registering to vote.  He slugs the black spokesman twice in the stomach.  Then the policemen push the demonstrators away from the building.  King comes back from Oslo and another white man tries to beat him up, but his staff pull the man off him.  King now leads the march to register to vote.  The official tells him that the registration office is closed.  King says they will be back. 

King talks to Johnson saying that they need a voting rights bill.  Johnson says they just passed the Civil Rights Bill and King is going too fast.  King says they are planning a march from Selma to Montgomery, about 50 miles.  The marchers are going to need protection by federal troops, but Johnson rejects that idea saying that it only will make a martyr out of Gov. Wallace.  King comments:  "Those are 50 of the most dangerous miles in this country for a black man to march."  Johnson says King is going to need something big, something like Birmingham. 

Judge Johnson gives the marchers permission for the march, but they must walk two abreast and must not be more than 50 of them, for traffic safety, says the judge.  King agrees to that, but he wants some of the biggest names in the area to march with him.  And people can march with them to the highway in Selma and then march with them in Montgomery.  Coretta says she is going with her husband on the walk, although he tries to discourage her.  Martin is worried about more people being killed, but his wife says the march is the most important one.  It's for the vote. 

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Ramsey Clark watches as the march beging.  He says violent racists had comes from hundreds of miles away to Selma for this march.  Murder was a possibility at any time.  Tony Bennett comes to town to entertain the civil rights marchers.  He is threatened with violence and his car has to speed away to avoid it. 

That night Bennett sings for the crowd.  King thanks Bennett, Belafonte and others for entertaining them.  The real Tony Bennett comments:  "I've sung before royalty and movie stars, and the White House since, but nothing ever meant as much to me as his saying that."

Viola Liuzzo is a white woman who drives supplies and people back and forth in her automobile for the marchers.  A housewife and mother of three children, she came down from Detroit, Michigan to help out.  At night she is driving a black student in her car.  A car filled with racists bumps Viola's car in the rear.  Then they drive along side her car and fire at her with a pistol.  Viola is dead, but the student is just wounded.  He plays dead as the murderers come back to make sure the two are dead. 

20,000 marchers have assembled in Montgomery at the end of the march.  King speaks from a platform not far from the Alabama capitol building.  The marchers have the support of President LBJ who is now also supporting a voting rights bill. 

  

Part III.

King considers taking some time off from the movement and taking one of the ministerial positions he has been offered.   He relaxes with his wife and four children Yolanda King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice King.  But political events won't let King rest.  There was the Watts riot in Los Angeles, California and the Vietnam War. 

Mayor Daley of Chicago warmly welcomes King to Chicago.   Daley has an entire itinerary for King, that is, until Lockwood speaks up saying that King is here to discuss jobs, housing and schools in Chicago.  King takes a very run-down apartment in Chicago.  Coretta tells her children that most of their people live in apartments like this.  The press comes in to take the King family portrait. 

King visits with Malcolm X.  They have almost completely different approaches to civil rights.  Malcolm thinks that by burning down their neighborhoods, blacks are finding their manhood.  He also says it's good for the blacks to hate the white man because:  "It takes them to reality, lets them know who the enemy is."  He compliments King on the great achievements he made in desegregation, but this did not cost the whites anything.  But now they are faced with the real problem:  breaking the cycle of poverty in which black people are caught.  And that will cost America billions of dollars.  And this will not be accomplished by appealing to their enemy's conscience.  He also says he wants no part of white society, not even its values.  King says that Malcolm's problem is that he hates being black.  He says:  "You can't see beyond your own personal rejection."  Malcolm says that if King continues holding to non-violence, he will be discredited by his own people.  Of course, King will stay with non-violence.  Malcolm says to him:  "I love you. . . . You're a glorious fool."

King and his close staff meet with Daley and his staff.  Daley's position is that King can't expect to change Chicago overnight.  King answers:  "We've found over the long haul, unless it is changed overnight, it'll never be changed."  Daley says that the white workers are saying that the blacks "have been getting too much.  And that they'll soon have their jobs."  King says he will fill the jails of Chicago and will start boycotts of those businesses that discriminate against blacks.  Daley says:  "I wouldn't do that." 

King pays a visit to Levison.  He wants Levison to be his friend again.  Levison says he has always been Martin's friend.  King asks him to rejoin the movement.  Levison accepts.  This makes a lot of people in the movement question Martin's wisdom.  They think this will raise again the communist charge against King.   His father really gets angry at Martin.

Another thing that upsets King's supporters and staff is his taking a stance against the Vietnam War.  This will divide the supporters and ruin the movement, they say.  One staff member says President Johnson will be upset and "Lyndon Johnson is the best friend Negroes has (sic) ever had!"  King doesn't budge.  He quotes Albert Einstein:  "The world is too dangerous to live in, not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen."

New York, May 16, 1966.  King gives a speech against the Vietnam War.  William Sullivan of the FBI says this allowed the Bureau to take their greatest efforts against King.  He re-circulates the report saying that King is a communist.  They even forge letters in King's handwriting, such as the one to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference saying that the organization is being investigated by the IRS for misappropriation of funds.  And then Sullivan sends tapes of King having sex with white women to Coretta King.  Coretta refuses to listen to the tapes.  The whole thing makes her mad and she searches again for FBI bugs in her house.  Martin comes home, but she still won't listen to the tapes.  She supports her husband and his cause. 

King preaches a sermon dealing with his own death.  He says what he wants to leave behind is his example of living a "committed life". 

Coretta speaks with Lockwood at his office.  She says Lockwood has been far too critical of her husband in his article on Martin.  Coretta criticizes him for saying that Martin is completely out of bounds and that King can never again be trusted to lead the black movement.  Lockwood explains that Martin has done such things as alienate President Johnson, have funds cut off for their people and put a slur on black patriotism.  Coretta accuses him of writing the article in order to get something, such as a grant or a place in the Johnson administration.  She also says that no black leader except her husband has spoke jp against the Vietnam War:  not Roy Wilkins, Senator Brooke, Ralph Bunche or Carl Rowan. 

Chicago, August 5, 1966.  Everything seems to go wrong for King in Chicago.  He and his people march in a white suburb and receive a horrible, frightful reception from the whites living there.  King even says these northern whites could teach white Mississippians some lessons in how to hate.  King himself is hit on the forehead by some type of object that causes a big cut.  Daley sends a message to King that he doesn't want another Marquette Park incident.  King admits he underestimated the amount of prejudice in the north.  He even goes on to say that the whole thing has been a defeat. 

November 18, 1967.  SNCC meeting.  King is confronted with the philosophy of black power.  He, however, will not be moved.  Martin refuses to use violence no matter who says so. 

Marks, Mississippi, December 4, 1967.    King and Abernathy see a great deal of suffering amid terrible poverty.  He talks to the people of the community about having a Poor People's March on Washington, D.C. to protest against poverty.  Martin calls this the Poor People's Campaign.  The white reporters are pretty hostile to King and say that his approach is being questioned by his own people.  Martin replies:  "If I'm the last person in this country to speak for non-violence, then I will be that person." 

The conditions for black garbage collectors in Memphis, Tennessee are terrible.  Two black garbage workers are caught out in the rain and go into the all-white office.  The guys are told they are not allowed to hang out here.  So they hide in the back of a garbage truck.  Somehow the switch is turned on when lighting strikes in the area and the two men are crushed to death.  A man named Gene comes to King for his help.  Andrew Young tells Gene that they can't do it because they are scheduled to be in Washington for the Poor People's March on the 20th.  Gene says all they need is for Martin to make a brief speech on their behalf and then he can go to the airport.  Andy says there's no time to provide security, but Gene says there's no problem with security. 

Back to the present.  Memphis, Tennessee.  in a march King is being harassed by black youths in Memphis.  His staff have to get Martin out of there.  King returns home. 

Gene calls King to ask him to return to Memphis because non-violence itself is on trial there.  Andy says no, but Martin says yes.  So they will return to Memphis.  A.D. King is coming with them this time.  When they get to Memphis the place is littered with garbage and on the streets are a great number of policemen and the national guard on the streets.  The King staff get a hold of some of the youths that were harassing Dr. King in order to find out why they did it.  They finally learn that these black harassers were actually hired by the FBI to harass King.   King and his staff are shocked when they hear this.  Andrew Young suggests that they get out of Memphis, but King says no. 

A police officer is assigned a post in a fire department to keep an eye on what is happening around King at the hotel where King is staying.  Two black firemen, Fred and Dan, tell him that they will let him know if they find out anything of interest to the lawman.  

Martin wants to skip the night's meeting because he feels exhausted.  But the crowd demands to see Martin.  So Martin has to come down and speak to them. Martin mentions that there are reports that something is going to happen to him in Memphis.  He says:  "But it doesn't matter to me now, because I've been to the mountaintop and I don't mind.  Like anybody,  I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I'm not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God's will.  And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I have seen the promised land!  I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land!"  King receives a tremendous ovation from the crowd. 

For some reason the two firemen Fred and Dan are transferred elsewhere for Friday.  They are only told that those are their orders.  And the police officer is taken off his post.  He is very suspicious about his removal. 

Martin comes out of his hotel room on the second floor.  Andrew Young shouts up to King that Ben Branch is here.  Ben is a musician and King asks him to play a special tune for him on the organ tonight.  Another man tells King that he better get on an overcoat because it's going to be cool tonight.  Andrew Young takes his eyes off King and then hears a shot.  He sees Martin's foot shaking on the ground and he yells:  "Come on, Martin, quit horsin' around."    But when he sees Abernathy bend over Martin's body, he suddenly realizes that the noise was a shot.  He and others run up to the second floor.  Martin looks as though he were dead.  The staff starts to panic, especially Martin's brother.  Everyone starts yelling for others to do something. 

The police and the paramedics arrive.  The staff put Martin on the gurney and off they go.  Andy calls Coretta and tells her Martin's been shot and for her to get to Memphis now.  They are in St. Joseph's hospital.  Then television is interrupted for an announcement that Dr. King has been shot.   Yolanda King knows what is going to be said and runs out of the room with her hands over her ears. 

King is brought into the emergency room.  Three men of the staff watch as the nurses and doctors try to save King.  But they can't.  Coretta arrives in the airport and she is chased down by a number of people.  A man says: "Mrs. King."  She says:  "Tell me."  The man tells her:  "Dr. King is dead."   Martin's father is told and remarks that Martin always told him it would come, but his greatest wish was that he die before his son. 

 

Good overview of the early civil rights movement.  Paul Winfield does not look much like MLK, but he did do a good job of acting.  Sometimes Winfield, when giving a King speech, would speak too fast.  King was not a fast talker.  Cicely Tyson was very good as the ever faithful and supportive Coretta Scott King.  Most of the major events are covered in the film, even the killing of northerner and mother of three Viola Liuzzo by southern racists.  There are a lot of good excerpts from the speeches of King in the movie, which makes the overall script even better.  My wife enjoyed the film also.  It brought back a lot of memories to us of King and the struggle. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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