The New Democrat Online

Life is a Highway

Life is a Highway
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Monday, September 24, 2012

US National Archives: Hollywood Roundtable on Civil Rights From 1963

Frank Mankiewicz, Marlin Brando & James Baldwin

Hollywood played a key role in the American civil rights movement because of the attention that these entertainers Could bring to this movement. Because of their fans and the money and attention that came as a result. Not sure without Hollywood would the civil rights movement of the 1960s had been as successful as it was. National news, TV, radio and print, didn’t really start covering the movement strongly until the massacre in Selma in 1963. Which is when President Jack Kennedy got behind the movement as well. It shouldn’t take a tragedy like that to get people, even the politicians to support the right causes.

This is exactly what the civil rights, or human rights, or freedom movement for all needed, was national attention. To get it national exposure, so Americans can see what exactly this movement was about. Fighting for freedom for all Americans and that we would all be treated equally under law. Not be discriminated against based on race, but be judged as individuals, people. And not be treated as members of groups. The civil rights legislation of the 1960s, never comes about without the media reporting on what they were about and trying to accomplish. And what their opponents were doing to try to defeat them.

And had it not been for the violent disaster in Selma, Alabama in 1963 where protesters were rundown, maybe President Kennedy doesn’t get involved the way he did and make that famous civil rights speech on national TV. I believe the night of Selma, because before that he was a passive supporter of civil rights. Officially being in favor of it, but not doing a whole lot to bring it about and push it through Congress. There are times when celebrity exposure can be a positive thing and when it can be negative. Its negative when an entertainer gets behind some cause, because they think it’s a fad and they need to be behind it, so they look cool as well. But its positive when they get behind something that isn’t popular, at least yet, but its the right thing to do.

Equal rights for all Americans was not popular in the early 1960s. It wasn’t popular after it was passed in 1964, 65 and 68. Perhaps contributed to Richard Nixon winning the presidency in 1968, with all the Anglo-Saxon Southern Americans voting for him and not Hubert Humphrey. But again America is not a majoritarian social democracy where we settle everything by majority rule. We probably settle less than half of our issues based on what the majority says we should do. And things like civil rights and equal rights shouldn’t be left up to the majority even if the majority supports them. None of our constitutional rights should be left up to the rule of the majority. Because a lot of times the majority is wrong and constitutional rights are not an issue where we can afford to be wrong. These Hollywood entertainers went out on a limb in the 1960s for a great cause.