Anti-Vietnam Speech And Turbulent Final Year In Tavis Smiley Reports
Host Tavis Smiley Explores Relevance of King's Controversial Anti-War
Stance and its parallels to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- A new primetime special on PBS
will examine the forgotten agenda of Martin Luther King Jr., whose
famed "Beyond Vietnam" speech, given at Riverside Church in 1967, led
to an abrupt loss of his popularity in the last year of his life. In
exclusive interviews on the second installment of TAVIS SMILEY
REPORTS, King's closest advisors discuss the divisions within the
civil rights movement over King's opposition to the war in Vietnam
and the political and public fallout from his criticism of American
foreign policy. The program explores the relevance of King's
anti-war position to the current U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
and the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor bestowed upon
both King and President Barack Obama.
The episode, titled "MLK: A Call to Conscience," premieres on PBS,
March 31 at 8pm/7pm Central.
In the interviews, Dr. Vincent Harding, who is co-credited with
writing the "Beyond Vietnam" speech, tells Tavis Smiley that King's
inner circle worried about the ramifications of the speech, both
before and after he gave it.
"We were concerned, he was concerned, but he had really come to the
point, as the speech is trying to say, where if he was to be a man of
conscience, a man of compassion, he had to speak," said Dr. Harding.
He added, "But it was precisely one year to the day after this speech
that that bullet which had been chasing him for a long time finally
caught up with him. And I am convinced that that bullet had something
to do with that speech. And over the years, that's been quite a
struggle for me."
TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS "MLK: A Call to Conscience" is based on dozens
of hours of interviews with King's friends and with scholars who
study his legacy, including:
Dr. Vincent Harding, drafter of the "Beyond Vietnam" speech,
Clarence Jones, King's legal advisor,
Dr. Cornel West, a leading expert on race in America,
Dr. Susannah Heschel, daughter of activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,
Dr. Clayborne Carson, director of the King Institute at Stanford University,
Marian Wright Edelman, Organizer for the Poor People's Campaign with King,
Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning King historian.
Regarding contemporary comparisons between Nobel Peace Prize
recipients Martin Luther King Jr. and President Obama, Tavis Smiley
says, "During these interviews, I heard over and over again that the
similarities between Martin Luther King Jr. and President Obama are
limited. They are both strong Black leaders, and Obama's success is
in part due to King's achievements. But one was a Christian preacher
who advocated non-violence and the other is a wartime president. The
comparisons can only go so far."
TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS, a series of four primetime specials airing on
PBS throughout 2010, debuted in January with "One on One with Hilary
Clinton." Following "MLK: A Call to Conscience" on March 31, the
series continues this summer when Smiley teams with Academy
Award-winning director Jonathan Demme to revisit New Orleans on the
fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Visit pbs.org/tavis/reports
for more information, Web-exclusive content or to view past episodes.
TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS is produced for PBS by The Smiley Group, Inc.
/TS Media, Inc. and KCET Los Angeles. Executive producer is Jacoba
Atlas. Funding provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS
and Public Television Viewers.
About Tavis Smiley
Tavis Smiley is host of the nightly talk show TAVIS SMILEY on PBS and
"The Tavis Smiley Show" from PRI. Smiley launched America I AM: The
African American Imprint, a world-class exhibition celebrating the
extraordinary impact of African American contributions to our nation
and the world, on January 15, 2009. The exhibit is on a four-year,
10-city tour and is currently on display in Los Angeles. Smiley is
also the author/editor of 14 books, including The New York Times
best-sellers Covenant with Black America and What I Know for Sure: My
Story of Growing Up in America, and his most recent, Accountable:
Making America As Good As Its Promise. For more information, visit