African-American Leaders: Past & Present

| February 5, 2014

Just in time for Black History Month and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech is History®‘s phenomenal collection: African-American Leaders: Past & Present from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

This outstanding DVD set includes five films that tell the stories of five influential African Americans. The in-depth profiles of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall and Barack Obama delve into their lives, the experiences that shaped them and the impact they had on history. The landmark DVD collection profiles five men who changed the course of a nation. “Civil War Journal: Frederick Douglass” examines the life of the brilliant writer and orator who escaped slavery and launched a lifelong fight for emancipation. “Martin Luther King Assassination” looks at the impact of America’s most powerful civil rights leader who, even in death, helped unite the movement. “Malcolm X: A Search for Identity” reveals a man whose intelligence and independent search for meaning made him one of the most charismatic leaders of his generation. “Thurgood Marshall: Justice For All” tells the triumphant story of the first African-American Supreme Court justice, whose fight to end racial discrimination in the South as a lawyer in the ’40s and ’50s paved the way for the Civil Rights movement. “Barack Obama” follows the journey of the first black U.S. president from his life with his single, white mother and estrangement from his African father, to his arrival as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review through to the White House.

Of course, I knew about these men before viewing this DVD, but many of the profiles shed another light on what I had already known. Douglass’ efforts with the 54thMassachusetts all black infantry, led by white officers was very heroic. And his subsequent influence as a lecturer against slavery, his living abroad and his friends having paid for his eventual freedom were among other interesting facts.

Among exciting details about Thurgood Marshall included the fact that many newspaper accounts of his civil rights work alluded to the fact that he was handsome—as if this had anything to do with his ability to effect change in the Southern states that were being hard hit by Jim Crow laws. But he seemed to co-sign the fact that he carried himself well. Even during an interview toward the end of his life, Marshall commented that only a jealous husband would be the reason for him to leave his post on the United States Supreme Court.

In any case, it was a great day in 1967 when President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court; he had certainly paid his dues and made inroads in the legal arena across the United States. Marshall’s relentless research into Plessy vs. Ferguson and the “separate but equal” laws that led to Brown vs. Board of Education and the desegregation of public schools fully illustrated that Marshall possessed so much ambition, commitment and resolve toward equality.

Malcolm X’s life story is well known, and it was revealed in an interview with comedian and activist Dick Gregory, that even Gregory knew that Malcolm X’s time was drawing near. He had been threatened, and during the last conversation that the two men had, Gregory knew in his heart that the two would never meet again. The profile of Malcolm X also revealed the friction between him and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, and the fact that Malcolm was disillusioned when he said he discovered that the leader had fathered children with female secretaries of the Nation. This cut through Malcolm hard, since he so cherished and admired Muhammad.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination is fully explored, with all manner of theories into whether James Earl Ray acted alone or with others, including the U.S. government. One new angle is raised about the man who ran a restaurant across the street from the now famous Lorraine Motel, upon whose balcony Dr. King took his last breath.

The profiles, indeed, show strong black men who have made indelible marks on American history, including, of course, Pres. Barack Obama, whose story is a familiar one–from his childhood and movement through Chicago and politics to his grassroots election campaign.

For more interesting details and a great Black History Month DVD addition, check out African-American Leaders: Past & Present, arriving January 28 from Lionsgate. Visit

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
Filed in: Video and DVD

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.