Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement that changed the world.
Nick Cannon, the Rev. Al Sharpton and more reflect on the life and legacy of the civil rights icon in ET’s exclusive clip fromIAm MLK Jr., a new documentary airing on the Paramount Network and BET on Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary his assassination.
The 90-minute special chronicles Dr. King's rise to prominence in the civil rights movement and celebrates his unshakable devotion to equality. Featured in the film are interviews with key figures from the civil rights era, including Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Rep. John Lewis, as well as entertainment, political and sports figures such Cannon, Van Jones, Carmelo Anthony and NFL player Malcolm Jenkins.
"I couldn’t fathom the amount of pressure that Dr. King was going through. If I had to put myself in his shoes, I wouldn’t make it, I’d break,” Cannon explains of the “constant death threats” against King and his children. “I couldn’t imagine that. To have people wanting to bomb your house for what you believe in.”
Beyond King’s public influence, I Am MLK Jr., delves into the psychological toll that being the face of a movement took on him, from constant targeting from FBI leader J. Edgar Hoover, to protecting his family amid death threats, and being disparaged in the media as an extremist rather than a freedom fighter.
“Every day he left home knowing there was a real possibility he'd never get back, and he'd leave anyway, ” Sharpton says.
Oftentimes, Dr. King is revered as an almost superhuman figure, but I Am MLK Jr. humanizes him in a way that reminds us that everyday people can change the course of history.
“He's a young guy trying to find his way,” Jones says. “And yet somehow when it’s time for him to stand in front of a podium, he channels something that people are still talking about today.”
The documentary illustrates some lesser-publicized moments in Dr. King's short life, like his commitment to helping the working poor by moving his family to Chicago, where he led the Chicago Freedom Movement to fight for better housing, job opportunities and education.
Dr. King’s final speech, which he delivered at the Mason Temple Church in Memphis, Tennessee, on the eve of his assassination, is also re-examined, in addition to the tragic moment on April 4, 1968, when he was shot to death at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He was 39 years old.
Lastly, the film outlines how his legacy sparked significant movements in recent history ranging from uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri after the police shooting of Michael Brown Jr., to NFL players protesting against racial injustice and brutality.
I Am MLK Jr. premieres on the Paramount Network and BET on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.