This weekend I saw the movie, Selma. Yes, it was a good movie and worth seeing. It is, however, drawing some criticism for historical inaccuracies. The director of the film has pretty much admitted that it should not be viewed as a documentary.
I read this week that the daughter of a late Jewish rabbi, Abraham Heschel who marched with Martin Luther King is disappointed that the picture omitted any reference to her father.
In addition, while I was watching the film, I kept wondering where all the whites who marched and worked with Dr King were. It wasn’t until about two-thirds through the movie that we first saw them. That was after the incident on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. The film showed shocked whites deciding to go to the South to get involved. Was that really the catalyst that drove white people of conscience to get involved? The Selma bridge incident occurred in 1965. There was no mention of the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi in 1964. Two of them, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were white.
Then there was the portrayal of Lyndon Johnson.
Let’s be frank: By most accounts, Johnson as a person was a crude, nasty, immoral SOB. I doubt that anybody could accurately portray this larger than life figure. In my mind, Johnson was the most fascinating president in our nation’s history. I have read all four of Robert Caro’s works on Johnson and eagerly await the 5th and final volume dealing with his presidency.
Here is the point about Johnson: No matter what his foibles, no matter what his other policies (Vietnam, the Great Society) may have been, no matter what his true motivation or his true feelings about blacks were, he was a giant when it came to civil rights, and that will always be his monument. In that respect, he deserved better treatment from the film.
At the end of the film, there were screen captions describing what happened in the last years of the figures’ lives. This may be controversial to say, but I think it would have been fitting to include the fact that George Wallace, in his final years, came to repent his role in segregation and publicly asked black people to forgive him.
Final point: In the song that played during the final credits, there was a reference to Ferguson. Are we still going to mention Michael Brown in the same breath as Martin Luther King? Sorry, but I can’t.
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