Selma, Selma, Selma: Three Facts I Betcha Didn’t Know

The film Selma stars David Oyelowo (center) as Martin Luther King, Jr., and focuses on several unsung activists in civil rights history. But critics say it distorts the role of President Lyndon B. Johnson and others. Paramount Pictures

I really don’t care much for movies based on historical events, save perhaps for their entertainment value. And, just so we’re clear, I care even less when the history being presented is preceded by the monikers U.S. or American. Both tend to contain just a tad bit of jaundice to this discerning eye.

I’m not saying I dislike history. Mel Brooks’ History of the World is one of my personal faves and should go down in history as one of the all time best.

But when it comes to history, per se — i.e.; human in general and American in particular — most of what has and continues to be presented is still missing the necessary disclaimers.

The events you are about to see have been modified from the original versions. They were edited for content, spun to run before the race allotted, and formatted to fit their biases.

Ironically, critics say the movie Selma is no different, in that it distorts the role of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Some have even gone so far as to say the march on Selma was really LBJ’s idea. That in itself would be LMAO funny if it weren’t for the fact these are the same people who determine what goes in the history books. Personally, I thought Selma was one of the few movies I’ve seen about a civil rights era event that was clearly focused on the black men and women who actually led the event.

Still, I would not have been surprised if there had been a scene of a stoic President Johnson in a curtained, smoke filled Oval office masterfully working the levers of justice and liberty for all while commanding Dr. King and company to just click their heels together three times and say there’s no rights like human rights. What is surprising is the realization there are some people who are upset there wasn’t.

That’s not to say the makers of Selma didn’t take a few creative liberties themselves. Word has it there were more than a few passages from several of Dr. King’s sermons that had to be rewritten because someone else owned the exclusive right to use them in his movie. Apparently, both American history and the words spoken by her most noted figures can be bought, sold, copyrighted and trademarked. Who knows? Some day they may even be made available to the public in an IPO and future movies will include a Sarbanes-Oxley statement in the credits.

That said; I guess it never dawned on the critics that someone else may have owned the rights to the role LBJ actually played as the events in Selma unfolded. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because Selma wasn’t about LBJ — in the same fashion the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, when drafted, wasn’t about black people — and the critics are simply missing the point.

So, today, I will present three little known facts that Ms. DuVernay could have included in Selma. Facts I’m almost certain the majority of this country’s more prestigious ignorati would accept as truth because, well… they’re missing from the movie. So here goes:

Fact 1:

It was LBJ who first mentioned the idea of a march on Selma in a confidential email he sent to Dr. King several months before it took place. Officials at the NSA, which still owns the rights to the email, refused to de classify its contents for fear the agency would be accused of spying. Damned if Malcolm wasn’t right when that chicken came home to roost, eh?

Fact 2:

LBJ offered to extend Black History Week through the entire month of February if MLK agreed to delay his pursuit of new voting rights legislation until after the administration’s Great Society Programs had a chance to improve the lives of poor White folks. As a result, poor Black folks had to wait another decade for the three additional weeks that allowed them to add more material.

And last but not least:

It was LBJ who passed, by executive order, the ground breaking legislation requiring the dairy industry to add enriched calcium to milk, the unofficial soft-drink of the Civil Rights movement. It was the consumption of milk that significantly reduced the number of broken bones and teeth that fateful day on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and during all the demonstrations and riots that followed.

I believe the makers of Selma would have spared themselves a great deal of angst if they’d included at least one of the above facts in the movie and perhaps taken a few notes from Tim Burton’s Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Just think: LBJ and MLK kicking some vampire butt all over ‘Bama would have truly made history.

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