Set during the Civil Rights Movement of 1963 and premiering around the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 20, the television special Watsons Go to Birmingham fictionalizes a day of infamy that would later bring Martin Luther King Jr. to rare public tears.
It follows the Watsons, a middle class African-American family from Michigan who travel to Birmingham at a watershed moment when schools are integrated.
The family bears witness not only to the overt racial creed of the South, but social destruction that mars a moment of victory.
“You need an event to galvanize a people,” star Wood Harris tells theGrio. “All throughout history, it’s like that. We just inherit the past, and nobody knows what to do with it, and then we get some event that reminds us…Rodney King, Boston bombings, Trayvon Martin, there’s a list of them. They’re all great big deals. In 1963, the bombing of a church, and for four little girls to die, I don’t think anybody should forget that.”
Rather than dwell, Harris believes in making amends with life and reaping the reward for toil and struggle.
“People shouldn’t be reminded to feel bad, but just to be empowered by that,” he continues. “It’s like going from poor to rich. You take your experiences as a person who had these goals to accomplish like money and success, and then when you accomplish that, you are empowered by the moments when you didn’t have it.”
Read more about the new TV movie at theGrio.com