Selma (2014)

 

 

 

 

 

Director:     Ava DuVernay.

Starring:     David Oyelowo (Martin Luther King Jr.), Carmen Ejogo (Coretta Scott King), Jim France (Gunnar Jahn), Trinity Simone (Girl #1), Mikeria Howard (Girl #2), Jordan Christina Rice (Girl #3), Ebony Billups (Girl #4), Nadej k Bailey (Girl #5), Elijah Oliver (Boy #1), Oprah Winfrey (Annie Lee Cooper), Clay Chappell (Registrar), Tom Wilkinson (President Lyndon B. Johnson), Giovanni Ribisi (Lee White), Haviland Stillwell (President's Secretary), André Holland (Andrew Young), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Bayard Rustin), Colman Domingo (Ralph Abernathy), Omar J. Dorsey (James Orange), Tessa Thompson (Diane Nash), Common (James Bevel), Lorraine Toussaint (Amelia Boynton), David Morizot (Assaulting White Man), David Dwyer (Chief Wilson Baker), E. Roger Mitchell (Frederick Reese), Dylan Baker (J. Edgar Hoover), Ledisi Anibade Young (Mahalia Jackson), Kent Faulcon (Sullivan Jackson), Merriwether Stormy (Jackson's Daughter), Niecy Nash (Richie Jean Jackson), Corey Reynolds (Rev. C.T. Vivian), Wendell Pierce (Rev. Hosea Williams), Stephan James (John Lewis), John Lavelle (Roy Reed), Trai Byers (James Forman), Keith Stanfield (Jimmie Lee Jackson), Henry G. Sanders (Cager Lee), Charity Jordan (Viola Lee Jackson), Stan Houston (Sheriff Jim Clark), Tim Roth (Gov. George Wallace), Greg Chandler Maness (Aide), Nigel Thatch (Malcolm X), Stephen Root (Colonel Al Lingo), Michael Papajohn (Major Cloud), Brian Kurlander (Voice on Recorder), Jeremy Strong (James Reeb), Elizabeth Diane Wells (Marie Reeb), Tara Ochs (Viola Liuzzo), David Silverman (Anthony Liuzzo), Charles Saunders (Gerry), Dexter Tillis (Angry Marcher), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Fred Gray), Alessandro Nivola (John Doar).

Made for TV movie.

police riot that helped the civil rights movement by showing the brutality of  southern governments and police

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

Martin Luther King Jr., is awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Alabama, black children are in church. A group of black female children are walking down the church steps when a bomb, set there by white supremacists, goes off, killing them.

Annie Lee Cooper tries to register to vote in Selma, Alabama. The registrar accuses her of trying to start a fuss. Annie says her form is filled out the right way, but the registrar says: "It's right when I say it's right." He asks Annie to recite the Constitution's preamble and Annie does that. So he asks her how many county judges are there in the state? 67. That's right so now he wants Annie to name all 67 of the judges' names. And that Annine, nor anyone else, can do. So her voting form is denied.

King goes into see President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson says he wants to help King and asks the man how he can do that. King says he can help by addressing the problem of the denial of the right to vote for black people, who are deliberately kept off the rolls and out of the voting booths by systematic intimidation and fear. Johnson says that most of the south has still not desegregated, and they shouldn't start another fight before they have finished the first one.  He tells Martin that his focus is going to be on the war on poverty at home and he wants Martin's help with this.  So, he says, the voting matter will just have to wait.  Martin says it can't wait and why it can't wait.  Lyndon sticks to his guns and says this administration is going to delay the voting problem, but just for a while.  So what can King do, except say that he understands. 

King comes down and tells his two aides:  "Selma it is."

King arrives in Selma, AL with Abernathy, Young, Orange and female agitator, Diane Nash.  King walks into a hotel for whites only and starts to register.  A white man acting friendly asks King if he can introduce himself?  King says sure and the white man slaps him to the ground.  A policeman grabs the white man and Kings says he's alright. 

Johnson talks with J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI.  Hoover tells him:  "King is a political and moral degenerate."  Johnson says what he needs is to know about what King is planning to do next.  Hoover says they can weaken the King family dynamic. 

King returns to his Atlanta residence.  Coretta Scott King and the children are at home.  She receives a hate message over the phone.  She hangs up on the man.  Martin tells his wife that he is going to Selma for about two weeks.   Then King calls singer Mahalia Jackson and asks her to sing a hymn to him.  She does that. The FBI logs the phone call in on their records. 

King gives a stirring speech to the people of Selma in a black church.  The FBI logs it in as King and tje SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) inciting the local Negroes in Selma. 

SNCC (the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) people speak with the SCLC leaders.  King says the only way to stop Johnson from ignoring them is by being on the front page of the national press every morning and on the TV news every night.  And Selma's Sheriff Jim Clark is like Birmingham's Bull Connor and he will provide the drama for the media.  They will concentrate their efforts on the Selma Courthouse.  They perform a sit in that blocks the traffic by the courthouse.  King and others are arrested.  King gets his media attention and that, in turn, gets Johnson's attention. 

Malcolm X comes down to Selma.  He tells Mrs. King that he has no army behind him anymore.  She says that he had said disrespectful things in the past, so he will understand why there is some alarm at his being here.  He says he understands that, but he is not their enemy.  He says his eyes see in a new way now.  Malcolm adds that let him scare the whites by being the frightening alternative if the whites don't treat Martin so well.  Coretta tells Martin about Malcolm's visit and he is not pleased about the matter.  But neither is Governor George Wallace of Alabama.  He wants someone to tell Sheriff Jim Clark to show some restraint, because pictures of nigras getting beat is not good for the white south.  An advisor to Wallace suggests that they put some fear into the movement by attacking a small night march that is going to take place tonight.  He adds:  "Let's scare some real sense into them black bastards."

The police start hitting the marchers with their batons.  Three of the marchers seek shelter in a restaurant, but the police come in and start hitting the marchers with their batons.  They end up by shooting the young man in front of his mother and father.  Now they leave.  Martin pays a visit to the father of the murdered youth.  Martin asks the man his age.  He's 82 years old, but that didn't stop the police from beating him.  Martin expresses his sorrow over what happened to the man. 

At the funeral, Martin asks who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson?  A state trooper acting under the orders of George Wallace did it, but how many other fingers were on that trigger?  He also comments on the assassination of Malcolm X three weeks earlier.  He promises Jimmie that they will win what he was slaughtered for. 

Martin's next move is a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest and amplify.  He tells this to President Johnson.  Johnson scolds him on his tactics, but Martin tells him the movement needs his help and involvement.  The president says he's sick and tried of Martin demanding and telling him what he can and can't do.  Martin insists that the voting issue cannot wait for people are being killed in the streets. 

After the meeting with Martin, Johnson asks to have Hoover come over to see him.  Hoover releases the audio sex tapes made of King having sex with white women.  Martin tells his wife that it's not him on the tapes.  She says:  "I know."  She says she can endure the sacrifices occasioned by the movement, but what she can't adjust to is the constant presence of the closeness of death.  The one thing she says she wants to know is:  "Do you love me?"   He says he loves her.  She asks:  "Do you love any of the others?"  He says, no. 

Wallace says there will be no march from Selma to Montgomery.  Meanwhile, the sheriff talks to white rednecks, saying:  "Let's take these bastards and stick them down into the Alabama River and never see them again."  The more reasonable of the two SNCC representatives, John Lewis, says to James that he is going to participate in the march to Montgomery.  James says that SNCC has decided not to march, so John will be on his own. 

They plan on marching over the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the Alabama River.  They prepare to start to move.  Hosea Williams drew the short straw and now he will lead the walk.  There are over 500 marchers.  They start walking over the bridge.  On the other side of the bridge, Sheriff Jim Clark and his men wait for the marchers. 

A policeman uses a loud speaker to declare that this is an unlawful assembly and they have two minutes to disperse.  The police put on their gas masks.  The police are so blood thirsty that they rush the protestors.  And the police create a bloody mess.  John Lewis with a possible skull fracture walks the demonstrators back to the church. 

Martin says they are going back to the bridge.  They will go again.  He asks for more people to come and march with them on a new march to Montgomery.  Hundreds of people from across the nation come to Selma.  A lot of white clergy comes. 

Johnson's advisor Lee White tells the president to let King have his march to Montgomery.  Do that and then Selma is over and the president is back in control.  Johnson tells his advisor to tell Wallace and these backwater hicks that the president doesn't want to see anymore of this horseshit.  And he wants King told to give up this march. 

Martin is going ahead with the march.  One-third of the marchers are whites.  There are lots of clergy from different faiths. The police are on the other side of the bridge, but they are ordered to withdraw.  The way is open for the march to go ahead.  Martin bends down and so do the protestors to pray.  He then gets up.  He now walks back to Selma. 

Many of the people are mad because Martin stopped the march.  He writes a letter to his wife. 

At night two white marchers are beaten by rednecks.  One was a white priest named Reed from Boston.  He's dead.  Martin calls the president and they have a nasty exchange of different views.  King tells the president that he is the man who is dismantling his own legacy with each passing day.  He suggests that Johnson start acting like he's on the protestors' side. 

Martin speaks with John Lewis, telling him that LBJ is not moving, and he personally doesn't think he can keep on going on with the march to Montgomery.  John reminds Martin of the stirring remarks Martin made about the eventual triumph of the movement.  King said:  "Fear not. We've come too far to turn back now."  This helps renew Martin's will to continue on. 

This time the judge approves the next march from Selma to Montgomery. 

SCLC march preparations are underway at Brown Chapel.  Logged in by the FBI. 

George Wallace comes to talk to the president.  He wants Johnson to take over the responsibility for handling the protestors.  Johnson refuses.

Johnson goes on television to push a bill that would let the blacks vote in the south. 

The walk from Selma to Montgomery goes ahead.  Martin gives his speech in front of the capitol building of Alabama in Montgomery. 

 

I enjoyed the film.  We learn a lot about all the negotiations going on behind the scenes with King having to be in touch with President LBJ, who was backed up by racist J. Edgar Hoover and his dirty schemes.  The divisions between the different people were also interesting.  The march was not an easy thing to stage.  A white minister from Massachusetts is beaten to death by white supremacists.  When I was watching the news around this time, as a young person, I didn't know about all of these hidden behind the scenes incidents.  It was all very interesting to find out about. David Oyelowo (as Martin Luther King Jr.) was excellent and powerhouse Oprah Winfrey was very good as activist Annie Lee Cooper.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)