After the end of segregation which happened in 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King received the Nobel Prize award, soon after, the next scene depicts the girls that were killed in the 16th street Baptist church bombing. Next, Dr. Martin Luther King meets with President Lyndon Johnson, demanding him to act on black peoples’ right to vote. The president at that time (LBJ) claimed that Black people already had the right to vote but King countered this statement because black people had the right to vote but were usually obstructed from doing so. President Johnson claimed that he had more pressing issues to face such as his war on poverty. Dr. Martin Luther King goes to Selma which is located in Alabama where blacks are of more than fifty percent of population but are still denied their suffrage rights. The white supremacists are supported by their sheriff, Jim Clark so they all get away with threatening the lives of the African-Americans in that town. Dr. Martin Luther King believed that the movement was the only way to attract Johnson’s attention, he stated that they had to be in front of every Newspaper in order to gain his attention. 1
For the first part of their plan they stood in front of the county registration, which ends in arrests. While Dr. Martin Luther King was in prison, Malcolm X meets with Coretta King (Martin Luther King’s wife), he was the leader of the Black Panther’s movement. Malcolm X tells her that he was sorry for what he said about Dr. King and he’s willing to help, Malcolm then gave a speech to the people to empower them. As soon as Dr. Martin Luther King got out of jail and is in Selma, a protest that was not official happens at night this ends in chaos as the troopers used batons, guns, gas and dogs to disperse the protesters. During this event Jimmy Lee Jackson goes to a café to hide from the cops soon after, he was killed. Shortly after, the activists decided to have a march from Selma to Montgomery. The march ended in violence and chaos. The Protesters were beaten and killed and unknowingly for the abusers the images were captured on TV and in newspapers. This caused a world outcry, Dr. Martin Luther King knew that it had gone all around the world so he urged people to join their next march. His exact words were:
“I am appealing to men and women of God and goodwill everywhere, white, black and otherwise. If you believe all are created equal, come to Selma. Join us. Join our march against injustice and inhumanity.”2
Many people showed up from all over the world including whites and most of them were clergies. President Johnson tries to discourage but later on the march actually begins, despite Johnson’s attempt to make a deal Dr. King still went ahead with the March, while they were marching the troopers withdraw from their guard. But Dr. King backs down from his march. Later on, the court finally made the march Legal. Finally, President Johnson sends the Congress a bill to end the voting restrictions.3
“I accept this honor for our lost ones, whose deaths pave our path. I accept this honor for the more than 20 million American Negroes who are motivated by dignity.” – These were the words used by Dr. King (David Oyelowo). The speech was reworded because the King estate did not give the director (DuVernay) permission to use his words. 4The actual statement made by Dr. King was “I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice.”5 After the Nobel Prize acceptance speech this took place in 1964 in Oslo, Norway. The next scene was the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four young girls in Birmingham, the issue with this is that the bombing actually happened in 1963 which was a year before the speech was delivered, but maybe this was put in place to show the racial tension that was happening in the south at that time.6 This alone may challenge one to wonder the accuracy of the Movie in depicting the march to Montgomery. Firstly, the Movie did not elaborate on Kings personal life, secondly some parts of the movie such as the death of jimmy lee was not accurate, and thirdly the Movie Selma was more than fair to President Johnson even though some people counter this. The movie Selma is accurate enough to be referenced in a report but the scenes were not the exact replica of what happened, it had the central idea but it was not an exact imitation.7
The movie Selma did not elaborate as much as it should have on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The Movie started after Martin Luther’s “I have a dream” speech it would have been really great if it started that way. The movie should have elaborated more on Dr. King’s early life and how he met Coretta or they could have talked about how his children felt about his activism. In fact, the only time his children were seen was when they were playing outside in their Backyard, the children did not have that much of an appearance in the Movie. In addition, in the movie an anonymous tape was sent to Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo) that makes it look like he was cheating on her. Dr. King indirectly confirms her suspension because she asked him if he had loved the other woman and he said no. This scene was put there to show that he was having an affair. In real life, Dr. King many mistresses the prominent one was Georgia Davis Powers, and he was, in fact, engaging in an extramarital affair in the weeks surrounding the Selma marches. Dr. King actually confessed to his wife, even though she already had her suspicions back in 1965 because of the absurd letters she would usually find in her house. 8This was definitely not the only stress on their marriages, there were additional major strains on their marriage, For example, the constant death threats Dr. King and his household received. Coretta constantly picked up calls that consisted of a person threatening to kill her and her children. Even though all of this was happening, Dr. Martin Luther King still insisted that they live in relative humility. Dr. King often travelled a lot but Coretta hardly ever travelled with him.9 Coretta did this out of fear that assassins or even the KKK could kill both of them thereby making their four children orphans.10 The movie could have tried to capture his children’s opinion on him going for marches. For instance, there should have been a scene were one of his children came up to him and begged him not to leave, or maybe one of his kids hugging him because he had come back home. Dr. King’s children should have appeared more in the movie. In addition, the movie should have showed the after effect of how the March from Selma to Montgomery changed things. For example, the movie could have talked about how 43 years after President Obama was elected- this would show that Martin Luther King’s dream definitely came to pass. This would have made the movie even more remarkable.
The second argument is to measure the accuracy of how the death of Jimmy Lee was portrayed. In the movie, Jimmie Lee Jackson (Keith Stanfield) went for the unauthorized march that happened at night, while they were marching he realized that he needed to protect his mother and his grandmother so they ran into restaurant so that the trooper would not harm them. He advised his mother and grandfather to pretend that they were reading the menu, as they settled down two of the troop men came inside and started beating his father, he tried to defend them then one of the men killed him. The issue with this scene is that this was not what happened in real life. In reality Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot twice by a trooper inside a restaurant that he, his mother, and grandfather had slipped into (as depicted in the movie). The problem is that He did not die on the restaurant floor, as depicted in the film, but instead he stumbled back into the street, where he was beaten further. Although he did not die immediately it left him unconscious and weak. He clung to his dear life for about 7 days before dying, and because of this he became a martyr for the Selma marches that followed. It also motivated people to seek for justice against the system. 11
The third argument the Movie Selma was more than fair to President Johnson even though some may counter this people counter this. In the movie, President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) and Dr. Martin Luther King were constantly in friction because Dr. King asked him if he could implement laws that could protect the African American’s when they are voting President Johnson claimed that Black people already had the right to vote but Dr. Martin Luther King countered this statement because black people had the right to vote but were usually obstructed from doing so. President Johnson claimed that he had more pressing issues to face such as his war on poverty.
“The eradication of poverty. I’m calling it “The War on Poverty.” It’s a matter of political priorities. Poverty is going to be my focus at home and I want you to help me with this. We can make big changes in these things for people of all colors. And I know that matters to you, does not it? This voting thing is just gonna have to wait. It…” 12– these were his exact words in the movie.
The Movie has created a controversy considering the fact that some LBJ historians claim that President Johnson had urged King to make the right to vote his next major agenda and to find the perfect battleground. This belief looked more believable because of the recorded call between President Johnson and King.13 Presidents Johnsons words were:
“I think that you can contribute a great deal by getting your leaders and you yourself, taking very simple examples of discrimination … If you can find the worst condition that you run into in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana, or South Carolina, … and if you just take that one illustration and get it on radio and get it on television and get it in the pulpits, get it in the meetings, get it every place you can, pretty soon the fellow that did not do anything but follow—drive a tractor, he’s say, “Well, that’s not right. That’s not fair.” … And then that will help us on what we’re going to shove through in the end.”14
This statement is considered fictional reason being that it was a person who claimed that this was what was said, this person had no substantial evidence to back up his statements15 and besides if President Johnson was truly in support it would not have taken him so much time to write a bill that protects African Americans when they are voting. Maybe President Johnson was not as mean and unreasonable as he was portrayed in the Movie but he was not as supportive either.
In conclusion, the movie Selma is based on the March from Selma to Montgomery. The director did a good job in trying to portray the events that occurred during this period, this made the movie more accurate. In addition, the movie Selma is accurate enough to be referenced in a report but the scenes were not the exact replica of what happened, it had the central idea but it was not an exact imitation.16 There were a few faults in trying to depict the scenes the way that they occurred but even though the scenes were not accurately depicted one could still get the main idea that was being portrayed. Overall, the director did a really good job in trying to capture the main events of the story.
1 Henderson, Odie. “Selma Movie Summary.” RogerEbert.com, 24 Dec. 2014, www.rogerebert.com/reviews/selma-2014.
2 “Selma (2014).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt1020072/.
3 “Selma (2014).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt1020072/
4 Lockett, Dee. “How Accurate Is Selma? We’ve Separated Fact From Fiction.” Slate Magazine, 24 Dec. 2014, www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/12/24/selma_fact_vs_fiction_how_true_ava_duvernay_s_new_movie_is_to_the_1965_marches.html.
5 Martin Luther King Jr.” Nobelprize.org, www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-acceptance_en.html.
6 Lockett, Dee. “How Accurate Is Selma? We’ve Separated Fact From Fiction.” Slate Magazine, 24 Dec. 2014, www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/12/24/selma_fact_vs_fiction_how_true_ava_duvernay_s_new_movie_is_to_the_1965_marches.html.
7 tolworthy, Jacob. “Selma Is 100 Percent Historically Accurate, The Imitation Game Not so Much.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 29 Nov. 2016, www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/selma-is-100-percent-historically-accurate-the-imitation-game-not-so-much-a7445171.html#gallery.
8 “Civil Rights Leader, Politician and Alleged MLK Mistress Dies.” South Florida Times, 4 Feb. 2016, www.sfltimes.com/news/civil-rights-leader-politician-and-alleged-mlk-mistress-dies.
9 “Fact-Checking the Film: ‘Selma’.” EW.com, www.ew.com/article/2015/01/03/fact-checking-selma/.
10 “Fact-Checking the Film: ‘Selma’.” EW.com, www.ew.com/article/2015/01/03/fact-checking-selma/.
11 “Fact-Checking the Film: ‘Selma’.” EW.com, www.ew.com/article/2015/01/03/fact-checking-selma/.
12 “Selma (2014) Movie Script.” Springfield! Springfield!, www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=selma.
13 “Fact-Checking the Film: ‘Selma’.” EW.com, www.ew.com/article/2015/01/03/fact-checking-selma/
14 “Fact-Checking the Film: ‘Selma’.” EW.com, www.ew.com/article/2015/01/03/fact-checking-selma/
15 Sorkin, Amy Davidson. “Why ‘Selma’ Is More Than Fair to L.B.J.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 6 July 2017, www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/selma-fair-l-b-j.
16 tolworthy, Jacob. “Selma Is 100 Percent Historically Accurate, The Imitation Game Not so Much.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 29 Nov. 2016, www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/selma-is-100-percent-historically-accurate-the-imitation-game-not-so-much-a7445171.html#gallery