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

January 15, 2021

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 as they followed his Poor People’s Campaign. 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.

The Emmy-winning production by an early experimental public affairs series began streaming for the first time ever on THIRTEEN in April 2018. 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.

Informed and resolute in the opening scenes, Dr. King was prescient particularly 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 the powerful tactic of nonviolence.

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 prouduction 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


Stream Free at Last – Martin Luther King, Jr.here now or under THIRTEEN Specials the THIRTEEN Explore app and PBS platforms.