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Forty years on from Martin Luther King

During the 2008 campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, Hillary Clinton told Barack Obama that 'you campaign with poetry, but you govern with prose'.

Althought it may have seemed like a political volley in the heat of the moment aimed at highlighting Obama's lack of experience, the man who went on to win the White House can be in no doubt a year into the job of the truth in Mrs Clinton's sentiment.

Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States in January 2009 ushered in a global wave of optimism.

A year later, the practicalities of government have naturally dissipated some of that initial enthusiasm.

The first days of 2010 have already brought the fall-out of the Christmas Day airliner bomb plot, his attempts to bring Wall Street to heel and now the earthquake in Haiti that brings a humanitarian catastrophe to America's doorstep.

But as he approaches his first anniversary in office, it is important to be reminded of just what an achievement it was that the US elected its first African-American leader.

The anniversary draws added poignancy as it falls just two days after the American people mark Martin Luther King Day.

It is hard not to see Obama's election as the final, successful act of the civil rights movement that King helped lead more than 40 years ago.

With this in mind, Panorama has gone back to a selection of the many films it made on the bloody, lengthy and tormented struggle for civil rights during the 1960s and presents a selection of those films here. Martin Luther King of course makes several appearances, including this film from riot-torn Cleveland in 1967.

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America still has race relations problems - perhaps not as overt as we saw in the 1960s - but still very real nonetheless. African-Americans still live disproportionately beneath the poverty line and are less likely to have access to healthcare than white Americans, just a couple of the issues jostling for position in the very long list of challenges facing Mr Obama as he enters the second year of his mandate.


  • Comment number 1.

    Great bit of film - this material could be so useful to history teachers trying to explain the political climate of the day. The questions asked by the Panorama reporters are almost as interesting as Martin Luther King's answers.


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