U.S. History in Film

Prof. McClurken’s HIST 329 — Fall 2008

The Long Walk Home

By far the most poignant film we have seen this semester. We covered a lot in our class discussion, from differences/similarities in gender roles between blacks and whites, the specifics about the bus boycotts, and the difficulties of being a black or white person during this time period.

One thing I was hoping we would go into more detail, though, was the choice to have the film narrated by the Sissy Spacek’s daughter. Roger Ebert said on his website that the narration was pointless and it didn’t add anything to the plot or the emotional aspects of the film. I disagree with this. I don’t think you can get a more objective point of view, considering the time period. The daughter has no concept of race or discrimination. She only sees the love and care of her family and Odessa (Whoopi Goldberg). I find the daughter as a narrator effective because it allows us to be immersed into the shoes of Odessa and the mother, while also giving us the opportunity to step back and analyze the struggles from both sides.

The Long Walk Home was beautifully made, and did well with incorporating fictional characters into a specific historical event. Instead of telling the story of the main historical civil rights leaders (MLK, Rosa Parks), we got to see what life was like during the bus boycotts from one of the 40,000 people who protested it, as well as the whites who were caught between supporting and opposing the boycotts.

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