Were he alive today, he would probably be on the march again. This time against inequality and injustice, the twin evils that still scar millions of black American lives” – Sir Trevor McDonald.
National treasure, Sir Trevor McDonald, OBE, in his latest documentary for ITV travels to America to cover a story he has always wanted to explore: the life of the Civil Rights icon, Martin Luther King.
It’s the 1960s, and America is busy putting a man into space, yet blind to the problems of race at home.
This intensely moving and definitive one-hour documentary starts with the monumental ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in Washington. McDonald discovers how King became a Civil Rights leader almost by accident. He visits Alabama and the cities of Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, where King was met with the ugly face of bigotry and violence. He goes to King’s first married home, and to the motel in Memphis, Tennessee where he was assassinated.
Made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death in April 1968, McDonald interviews King’s key allies, including veteran singer Harry Belafonte. He tracks down rarely interviewed women who helped King behind the scenes such as his assistant Willie Pearl Mackey King – speaking for the first time on British television – who typed up the address that became known as the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. He finds the child protestors and young students who risked their own lives to support their hero as he fought for Civil Rights.
McDonald uncovers new sides to the story. He reads chilling excerpts from the Georgia Code Book of 1933 a book that included petty rules governing the segregation of every aspect of black lives, when King was growing up. He discovers the words ‘I Have A Dream’ were off the cuff, never intended to be in the speech. He meets a former member the Ku Klux Klan who confesses in a different life he would have targeted McDonald, because of the colour of his skin. He interviews an expert on the horrors of lynching in 20th century America, and asks black role models Naomi Campbell, General Colin Powell and the Reverend Al Sharpton what Martin Luther King means to them.
We’ll be watching to find out more about one of the most iconic figures, not just African American history, but history, full stop.
Watch on ITV1 at 9pm on Thursday 22 March 2018.