TV Networks Plot Multiple Documentary Tributes to MLK Jr.

King in the Wilderness
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival/Bettmann Archive

NBC News and MSNBC will run a two-hour documentary centered on Martin Luther King, the latest TV project to be announced around the legendary civil-rights leader in the 50th anniversary of his 1968 assassination.

NBC News will debut “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and The Media” on NBC on March 24th at 8 p.m. and on MSNBC March 25 at 9 p.m. The two-hour documentary examines how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and leaders of the civil rights movement used  print and visual media, especially television, to spark Americans’ awareness of racial inequality. Andrew Lack. chairman of NBC News, is executive producer.

Other TV networks have planned separate projects that examine King’s life and work. HBO’s “King in the Wilderness” looks at the final chapters of Dr. King’s life, revealing a conflicted leader who faced an onslaught of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. The documentary debuts Monday, April 2 at 8 p.m. eastern on HBO. Meanwhile, Viacom’s Paramount Network Paramount will present “I Am MLK Jr.,” an original documentary from filmmaker Derik Murray, slated to air April 4 at 9 p.m. eastern.

The NBC News effort will show how protesters using social media today employ similar strategies to the ones utilized by Dr. King and movement leaders. The film also highlights how today’s protesters communicate directly to mass audiences via digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter and tell their stories firsthand by broadcasting unfiltered footage in real time.

“By the brilliant design of Dr. King and the movement’s leaders, each chapter of the civil rights struggle played out dramatically on the evening news,” said Lack, in a statement.  “Powerful images beamed into living rooms, haunted Americans and eventually brought about historic change. Today’s movements have smartphones and live streams – but they still depend on the sheer force of video and pictures to tell a story and move people to action.”

The documentary film was produced and directed by Rachel Dretzin and Phil Bertelsen, and is narrated by Lester Holt, anchor of “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.”