With Infinite Hope: MLK & The Civil Rights Movement

(Rochester, N.Y.) – Produced by Ithaca College’s Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Journalism Dr. James A. Rada and Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences Chrissy Guest, With Infinite Hope: MLK & The Civil Rights Movement looks back at the life, leadership, and legacy of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It premieres on Monday, January 21, 2019 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV. The film follows King’s career from his hiring at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, through his death on April 4th, 1968 in Memphis. 

Dr. James Rada and his journalism students spent a year traveling to Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma and Memphis to tell this story. The film includes interviews with several historians, as well as people who participated in key events during the Civil Rights Movement. Interviewees include:

  • Nelson Malden - King’s Barber in Montgomery and a member of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
  • Dorothy Walker - the Site Director of the Montgomery Freedom Rides Museum
  • Two women who participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • Freedom Riders Hank Thomas and Charles Person
  • Three women who participated in the Birmingham Children’s March – including Carolyn Maull-McKinstry who was also at the 16th Street Baptist Church when it was bombed and is the author of "While the World Watched"
  • The Rev. F.D. Reese – who was responsible for bringing King to Selma
  • Sheyann Webb-Christburg – who marched when she was 9-years-old and later went on to write Selma, Lord, Selma
  • Jamie Wallace – the Managing Editor of the "Selma Times Journal" in 1965
  • The Rev. James Netters, who was the Memphis City Councilman who helped bring King to Memphis
  • Beverly Robertson – former President of the National Civil Rights Museum
  • Elaine Turner – a member of the Lee family – according to some sources, the most arrested family during the Civil Rights Movement Elmore Nickleberry – one of the striking Memphis Sanitation Workers

Members of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King was hired in 1954, recall King’s arrival in Montgomery and his trial sermon at Dexter. Others remember the logistics behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott and King’s first speech as the Head of the Montgomery Improvement Association – the organization that spearheaded the boycott and thus began King’s ascent as the unofficial, albeit recognized, leader of the Civil Rights Movement. 

After Montgomery, the Movement focuses on three major conflicts: The Freedom Rides, The Birmingham Children’s March, and the March from Selma-to-Montgomery. Through participants’ first-hand accounts, as well as context provided by historians, we get a behind-the-scenes look at how King and other civil rights leaders marshalled a movement. 

With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, King and other leaders of the movement saw that they were able to address racial inequality through legislative action. King then turned his attention to the intersection of racial and economic inequality. And it is the focus on these two interrelated issues that brings King to Memphis in 1968 for the Sanitation Workers Strike. Through first-hand accounts from participants, we hear of King’s last march in March of 1968. It is the failure of that march which compels King to return to Memphis in April. 

In remembrance of the events of April 4, 1968, the discussion turns to issues such as: the larger context of the Civil Rights Movement, what made King such a great leader, and how his focus evolved over the course of the movement. The documentary concludes by taking the words of one of the most well-recognized songs of the movement and asking participants, “How far have we come and how much do we still have to overcome?” 

Pictured: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
Credit: NETA Online

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