Discovery Channel premieres a documentary tonight with Ted Koppel about three Americans whose lives were profoundly affected by white supremacist terrorism. The most recent incident: a 1981 lynching in Mobile, Alabama in which a 19-year-old black man was killed by two members of the Ku Klux Klan. Here's the thing that really amazes me, looking at the details on this program tonight: Barack Obama, the first black presidential candidate nominated by a major American political party, is almost exactly the same age as that young man killed in that "last lynching." They were born some months apart. The point being: our nation's bad old days weren't all that long ago -- if we can even say they're past tense at all. Trailer above, and snip from the program description:
This year, however, each [victim of racial violence profiled in this program] was directly involved in naming Senator Barack Obama as the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. "Barack Obama's nomination doesn't mean the end of racism any more than Sarah Palin's nomination signals the end of sexism or gender bias in America. But what giant steps forward! The Last Lynching offers a look at how far we've come on the racial front, and how recent some of the worst days of racial violence really were," explained Koppel.The program airs today, Monday, Oct. 13, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Program preview (Discovery). Here's the Wikipedia entry on that 1981 murder. Here's the NYT review of the Discovery documentary: In the Bad Old Days, Not So Very Long Ago. The NPR program Tell Me More has an audio piece up about the documentary here.
Koppel and his team of producers take viewers into the lives of these three: Congressman Robert Filner who, as an 18-year-old Freedom Rider, was thrown into Mississippi’s Parchman Prison; Florida schoolteacher Lizzie Jenkins who recalls tales of her grandfather watching the lynching of five African Americans in 1916; and Congressman Artur Davis who as a law student worked to hold the Ku Klux Klan accountable for "The Last Lynching," which took place in Mobile, Ala., in 1981.