LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill weighs in on the portrayals of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon Johnson in the new movie, “Selma.”
Film accurately portrays both MLK and LBJ – including their many flaws
The movie Selma has not yet been released nationwide and it has already stirred controversy. That is to be expected. What is surprising is the source of the controversy, which centers not on the portrayal of Martin Luther King, whose extraordinary work and words have been subjected to a nearly 50-year campaign of distortion. King has often been reduced from a complicated, brilliant, high-minded and courageous leader with real flaws into a bronze figure suitable for selling everything from hamburgers to luxury cars.
In Ava DuVernay’s film, King finally gets the treatment he deserves. He is, as powerfully portrayed by actor David Oyelowo, fully human, which makes King’s courage, open-mindedness, compassion and pain more poignant and powerful than any wash job could do.
Instead, the controversy centers on the portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson, who some have argued, ahistorically, was the architect of the Selma march, and who others contend was made a “villain” in order to portray King more heroically.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Read the full op-ed here