You’ve Never Heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Story Quite Like This


To mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, HBO is releasing a documentary reflecting on the last few years of his life.

Following the civil rights leader from the passage of the 1965 voting rights act to his death in 1968, “King In the Wilderness” will detail the struggles he faced as he encountered increasing violence and threats, according to a Monday, March 12 press release.

It was the period when King reportedly said his dream “turned into a nightmare.”

From trying to support Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael without backing Black power and the abandonment of white allies to finally going public with an anti-Vietnam War stance, the stage was set to put a target on King’s back.

“He was prepared to die,” activist Andrew Young said. “But he was also determined that his death and his life would have meaning.”

MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Taylor Branch, a historian whom director Peter Kunhardt turned to provide a portrayal of King that made him human, said for too long, the focus has been on King’s inspirational qualities rather than his reality.

“Most teachers and scholars cover Dr. King through the first 10 years of the movement — through Montgomery and Birmingham and Selma — because I think we’re in an era that wants to pigeonhole Dr. King as someone who’s about ‘I have a dream’and the end of segregation,” Branch told USA Today in a statement. “And it’s a shame, because if you really want to know who Dr. King was beyond the fanfare, and who we are as a nation, it’s all laid bare in those three years from 1965 to his assassination.”

“King In the Wilderness” premieres Monday, April 2 — two days before the anniversary of King’s assassination — on HBO at 8 p.m. EST.

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