Free at Last – The Award-Winning Martin Luther King Documentary

April 23, 2018

Still from the film Free at Last – Martin Luther King, Jr. A production crew for the film was documenting Dr. King’s travels in the south when he was assassinated.

On April 4, 1968 an assassin’s bullet ended Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. For several months leading up to that, Dr. King was being filmed by a crew from THIRTEEN’s Public Broadcasting Laboratory series. The film was hurriedly finished and broadcast the week following the assassination, with PBL photographer Joseph Louw’s eyewitness testimony about photographing the slain Dr. King at the scene of his murder. The program won an Emmy for Best Documentary.

THIRTEEN is honored to rebroadcast the Emmy-winning production by its early experimental series on Monday, April 23 at 9pm and Saturday, April 28 at 4:30am. The program is streaming for the first time ever on multiple platforms beginning April 24. Watch the film now.

Free at Last – Martin Luther King, Jr. is a cinema-verite film that provides an insightful, behind-the-scenes portrait of the man and his mission – as Dr. King toured southern black communities, planning and organizing the Poor Peoples’ Campaign and March on Washington. It was a march that he was not to lead.

Informed and resolute in the opening scenes, Dr. King was clearly prescient in particular on matters of economic inequality. The film is both touching and eerie: In one scene Dr. King is feted at an impromptu 39th birthday party, in another we see him discussing violent threats against his life and those of others. In yet another scene Dr. King, the Reverend James Bevel and Jesse Jackson explain nonviolence, a powerful tactic.

At the film’s conclusion Dr. King decides that he will take time away from the tour to speak at a local rally in support of a sanitation workers strike in Memphis, TN. He makes plans to rejoin the THIRTEEN crew and continue his Poor People’s Campaign and March tour. It was a promise he would not be able to keep.

Civil rights leader Andrew Young (L) and others on balcony of Lorraine motel pointing in direction of assailant after assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lying mortally wounded at their feet. Joseph Louw—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Civil rights leader Andrew Young (L) and others on balcony of Lorraine motel pointing in direction of assailant after assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is lying mortally wounded at their feet. Joseph Louw—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images


Tune-in Monday, April 23 at 9pm and Saturday, April 28 at 4:30am. Stream Free at Last – Martin Luther King, Jr.here now or on multiple THIRTEEN Explore and PBS platforms beginning April 24.