In his review Tony Scott, film critic for The New York Times wrote “[e]ven if you think you know what’s coming, ‘Selma” hums with suspense and surprise.”

But how many people actually know what’s coming?

For those not old enough to have a personal memory of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968), the story of Selma is not well known, if at all.

“Selma” is a remarkable movie, entertaining and educating at the same time. It expertly gives us a glimpse into one short period in the age-old campaign for civil rights.

By watching “Selma” we caught up on history and learned how the 1965 Voter Rights Act came to be. Many of us learned about the Emancipation Proclamation in high school history (but not much about the 1960s campaign) and might think the story ended there. “Selma” brings our knowledge current and helps us understand the current of civil rights that runs right up to today (see: “Intel Plans to Invest $300 Million to Encourage More Diversity at Intel and within the Tech Industry, Announces Hiring and Retention Goal”).

The main character of “Selma” is of course Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate today and mark as a national holiday. Through high cinematic drama, the movie provides the back story, personalities, strategy and tension that surrounded the 3-month campaign in a small Alabama town.

The movie made it all come alive and King became less legend, less chiseled, and more real, relevant, and inspirational. The movie reclaimed King from the archives and made him accessible for the post-1960 X and Y (Millennials) generations – those who will guide our country for most of this century.

Writing in his highly acclaimed and beautifully narrated biography “Let the Trumpet Sound, the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Stephen B. Oates says of the great man: “King reached more blacks – more Americans, more citizens of the world – than any other US reform leader in his century.”

Selma” reminds us why we celebrate King, not to deify an immortal, but to understand timeless issues and in our own way continue to further the ideals that underlined the cause he championed.

 

[Image from The King Center archives: thekingcenter.org]