Unrated (TV film. Running time: 1 hour 30 min.
Our content ratings: (1-10): Violence 4; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star ratings (1-5): 5
Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but dismay to evildoers.
The 1983 PBS film should be seen in conjunction with viewing THE GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI. The earlier film illuminates the claim of Charles Evers about his slain brother, made in the latter film, “He was the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi in 1963!” Based on Mrs. Evers’ book, the film takes us back before that fateful year to show us the development of a man capable of great change in the struggle against entrenched evil, a struggle that would consume his life. Howard E. Rollins, Jr. is excellent as Medgar, as is Irene Cara as Myrlie.
Considering that it is Mrs. Evers who is the source of the story, the film is very straightforward in depicting some of the darker side of her role in the struggle for equal rights. She was not at all in favor of Medgar accepting the leadership of the NAACP in Jackson. Knowing the danger it would subject them to, Myrlie would have preferred a normal life. She even left Medgar for a while, but found that her parents were more in sympathy with their son-in-law than her. Apparently their influence, plus the persuasiveness of Medgar, who comes to see her, helped in their reconciliation. Medgar himself is shown in need of leading at a key point. Steeped in the traditional NAACP tactic of attacking segregation through the courts, he is impatient with the young students who want to engage in demonstrations.
One of the students, played by Larry Fishbourne in his first significant role, is especially outspoken, arguing for the need for more direct action than NAACP’s traditional way of going through the courts. Medgar at first gives the students a lecture on the right way to do battle, but when they persist, pointing to the new sit-ins taking place in the Carolinas, Medgar comes around to accept their position. He eventually launches an economic boycott of the white-owned stores of Jackson where blacks were treated with such disdain. The great actor Paul Winfield also has a role in the film, the thankless one of an Uncle Tom. His business and leadership depending on the good will of powerful whites, he tries to dissuade Medgar from upsetting things in Jackson.
The film builds up to the tragic death of Mr. Evers and leaves us with the assurance that his cause at least has won. It is good that now we have GHOSTS OF MISSISSIPPI to show us how a white Mississippian joined with Ever’s widow Myrlie to bring the boastful assassin to justice. Each film complements the other,
Available on VHS from Amazon, and found in its entirety also on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ashwa73_9HM.