Though the post-racial world has yet to materialize, there's no denying this country has changed some over the last half a century, with an African American family living in the
It was not far from that statue that King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, to a quarter of a million people, on the occasion of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Parts of that speech and other images from the day are common currency in documentary films, though usually in the context of some larger, longer story – about King or the civil rights movement or
In such cases, the event appears full-blown and fully peopled, certified and sealed by history: a thing we think we know. By contrast, "The March," which airs Tuesday on
By 1963, things in the civil-rights movement were coming to a head. In June, Alabama Gov.
King's speech has come to stand for the march, but he was not its only voice or its architect.
That credit goes to A. Philip Randolph — a founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who had had the ear of President
Director John Akomfrah does a good job of giving context to the day, with many (if not most) key surviving participants recalling the march and what it took to make it happen.
These include field organizer Norman Hill, who traveled the country drumming up interest and support; Rustin aide Rachelle Horowitz;
When it comes to the day's central oration, Akomfrah can't quite leave King alone, laying in music below him — not the usual sentimental suet, at least, but a distraction and a distortion nonetheless; those words need no accompaniment. And here and there he processes an image for dramatic (and sometimes confusing) effect.
But these are bumps in an otherwise well-laid road. He puts you in the place and time. Color footage — much of it clearly home-movie footage, from an era when news footage was still often in black and white — brings the past closer.
Kennedy wouldn't survive the year. But the bill he called for in June was signed into law the next July as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Rating: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)