Selma Criticized for Negative Portrayal of Lyndon Johnson


Selma Criticized for Negative Portrayal of Lyndon Johnson

Director Ava DuVernay calls the complaints "offensive."

Published December 30, 2014

Selma is drawing plenty of praise this awards season, and now the controversy is following. The film is being attacked for its portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson’s role in the civil rights struggles depicted in the film, suggesting he actually obstructed the goals of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders. 

Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library, writes for Politico, "Why does the film’s mis-characterization matter? Because at a time when racial tension is once again high, from Ferguson to Brooklyn, it does no good to bastardize one of the most hallowed chapters in the Civil Rights Movement by suggesting that the President himself stood in the way of progress.” 

Adds Joseph A Califano Jr., President Johnson’s top assistant for domestic affairs from 1965-1969, "Contrary to the portrait painted by Selma, Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. were partners in this effort. Johnson was enthusiastic about voting rights and the President urged King to find a place like Selma and lead a major demonstration.” He continues in an op-ed for the Washington Post, “That’s three strikes for Selma. The movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season.”

Director Ava DuVernay took to Twitter to defend her film and its portrayal of the historic march. "Notion that Selma was LBJ’s idea is jaw dropping and offensive to SNCC, SCLC and black citizens who made it so," she wrote. "Bottom line is folks should interrogate history. Don’t take my word for it or LBJ rep’s word for it. Let it come alive for yourself. #Selma"

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(Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Paramount Pictures)

Written by Evelyn Diaz


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