Martin Luther King: the man, the myth, the march

David Han, Contributing Writer

Everyone has heard of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., but few take the time to truly understand the man behind the name.  Ava DuVernay’s new movie Selma takes you on a historic adventure through the life story of King (David Oyelowo) and the hardships that he and his supporters had to go through in order to create a more fair America.

Not only is the movie historically accurate, but it also does an amazing job of portraying King’s true beliefs and emotions during difficult times, quite a feat.  Selma takes a new angle on the only man in American history to have a holiday named after him.  In our society, King is thought of as a piece of history rather than as a mortal man.  This film depicts King’s vulnerability amidst his publicly consistent and firm demeanor.  King faced an enormous amount of pressure and stress from his opposition.  Of course, King kept moving.  King was at the forefront of the the Civil Rights Movement as well as at the front of the three-month march from Selma to Montgomery.

King proposed the march in order to convince President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed black Americans to vote without state or local impediments.

Although many protesters were severely beaten, they did not give up until they received their right to vote.

Only a week after its release date, Selma had already managed to stir up Oscar drama.  Going into nomination week,  many suspected that it would eventually win Best Picture. However, after the nominations on Jan.15, the film’s hopes of winning Best Picture seem bleak.  Many felt the nominations snubbed Selma, and many Black Americans and have expressed their opinions on Twitter using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.  Among other films in competition with Selma for title of Best Picture are Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Each of these movies received 9 nominations at the Academy Awards, yet Selma only received two: best picture and best original song. To put things in perspective, the Oscar voters are 94 percent white and 76 percent men, and an average of 63 years old.

Those marching in the 1960s likely hoped that race conflict would be a thing of the past in the 21st century. Given recent killing of AfricanAmericans in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, and other cities, the movie’s message seems depressingly relevant.  Considering theses events, many viewed the film as a documentary-esque look back into a situation somewhat similar to the one the United States faces today.

However, the movie is so much more than a documentary.  It not only focuses on King, but also on those around him who are often overlooked.  There were many instances where King’s wife, Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo), helped to keep King focused on his path to justice.  Moments such as these showed viewers that King did not work alone.  Without the help and support of those fighting alongside him, King may not have made history.

The legacy that King left behind is empowered by this new film as viewers find a new perspectives on the man who fought a violent civil rights war peacefully, a war that unfortunately continues today.