To mark 50 years since the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, Trevor McDonald travels to America’s Deep South in the hope of getting closer to the man who meant so much to him and so many others.
He uncovers new sides to the story, speaks to a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and interviews an expert on the horrors of lynching in 20th-century America. He also asks some of black role models, including Naomi Campbell, General Colin Powell and the Rev Al Sharpton, what Martin Luther King means to them.
Martin Luther King by Trevor McDonald could easily have been a paint-by-numbers look at an overfamiliar figure. To mark the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, the former newsreader travelled through the American South in the civil rights leader’s footsteps. But while there was nothing especially revelatory, this documentary was elevated by the quality of the interviewees and McDonald’s evident love of his subject. How many other presenters could recruit John Lewis, the US Representative for Georgia who marched alongside King, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and supermodel Naomi Campbell?
Martin Luther King is remembered for his words, and four words in particular, but McDonald, fittingly for a former newsreader, reminded us that the civil rights movement was mainly about images. Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Hundreds of thousands gathered at the Washington monument. Police using water cannon and dogs to disperse black men, women and children who had peacefully gathered. Television showed America itself, and America didn’t like what it saw.