What We Can Learn from Martin Luther King: A Review of Selma (2014)

The movie Selma draws power and inspiration from the life and death of Martin Luther King. Of all the civil rights movies for classrooms, it is one that truly illuminates the struggle for human rights. The movie doesn’t tell the whole story of King’s life but focuses on one of its most relevant parts – the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery over black voting rights. In doing so, it brings one of the largest events in the civil rights movement to life.


The opening scene

What is Dr. King preparing for as the film begins? At first, we think he is giving his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, but he is speaking to the mirror. He is in a hotel room with his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo). The first few minutes set the tone and tantalize us with a glimpse of his public and private persona.

David Oyelowo plays King superbly, and the scenes between him and President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) are tense but respectful. He doesn’t manage to sway Johnson despite painting a picture of injustice. His hand is forced to use other measures to draw maximum attention to the cause.

The film does not shy away from difficult moments. It shows violence for what it is – brutal and heartbreaking. In a church bombing at the start of the film, girls are chatting about their hair, and the next moment, they are gone. We aren’t getting a history lesson but seeing the tragedy unfold. We should all know about injustices like we see in this film because they are still happening today.

Essays on Martin Luther King

Students at college or university getting an education can help to illuminate the issue of inequality in society. Writing about it may be required in the course of their studies. Reading student essays on the apotheosis of Martin Luther King can be enlightening for them. Well-written and professionally edited essays on Martin Luther King on GradesFixer can show them how to write an essay about Martin Luther King. They can reach out to professionals for essay writing help or any other academic paper.

Historical accuracy

The film has been criticized for historical inaccuracies. For example, some people believe that the way President Johnson was depicted is far from the truth. Director Ava DuVernay defends the Selma movie historical accuracy and her depiction of President Johnson. She gives us a film that many believe tells the true story of the movement and King’s role in using the spoken word to invoke action. Their efforts culminate in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The story

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, but discrimination was still rampant in some areas. The movie portrays what some blacks had to face when trying to exercise their right to vote. When Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey), a Selma nurse, tries to register for the vote, she faces a racist county clerk. He asks her to name all 67 county judges in Alabama, and when she can’t, her voting application is denied.

Selma tells a story about a glorious moment in civil rights history and the losses it took to get there. It powerfully recreates the marches along the 54-mile highway between the two cities. One of the marches known as “Bloody Sunday” had police descending on the protesters with tear gas and nightsticks.

A man with flaws

David Oyelowo gives a righteous and fiery performance, portraying King as a man rather than an icon. We see him as a great orator and an inspiration, but we also see his flaws. He and his wife Coretta have some tense exchanges.

Coretta is very aware of his infidelities and affairs. The movie shows his doubts, his insecurities, his frustrations and his questionable decision-making. These imperfections make him more human. He is just another person using his unique gifts to bring about change.


Selma is a well-crafted historical biopic about a moment in history. It can help to show us a lesson out of the history books that we should never forget. Seeing Jimmie Lee Jackson’s mother grieve for the son she will never see again can’t help but bring to mind similar situations in the present. The movie doesn’t let anyone forget that the civil rights victory of 1965 was just a moment in a long war that still continues today. Go see the movie, talk about what it means and what we can learn from it.