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Lifetime movie commemorates black history

'Betty and Coretta' pays tribute to wives of Civil Rights leaders

By Jude Dsouza
On February 26, 2013

  • Coretta Scott King (Angela Basset, left) plays wife of Dr. Martin Luther King alongside Dr. Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) in the original Lifetime movie Betty and Coretta. Photo courtesy

To kick off Black History Month, Lifetime aired one of its greatest made-for-television movies, "Betty and Coretta." Dr. Betty Shabazz, the wife of Malcolm X, is played by R&B diva Mary J. Blige. Coretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is played by Angela Bassett (who, ironically, played Dr. Betty Shabazz in Spike Lee's 1992 movie, "Malcolm X").
We have read countless books and seen an innumerate number of movies and television programs about the lives of Dr. King and Malcolm X. And rightfully so - they are two of the most influential and inspirational figures that helped promote civil rights causes in the United States. Yet, we still receive little to no media coverage of their wives, who still advocated for their husbands causes after their death. It was refreshing to take a look at the Civil Rights Movement through a woman's eyes, a perspective we rarely get to see.
The casting could not have been done any better. Bassett does not surprise as a natural fit for the part of Mrs. King, since she is known for her tremendous performances in "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." And for Blige, who only has movie acting credits in "Rock of Ages" and "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," to take on and succeed in such a complex role as Dr. Shabazz with such little acting experience, is truly incredible.
The significance of this television movie is that it appeals to a broad range of people.
Yes, it is on Lifetime. And the cable network is usually known for cliché movies dealing with love, deception and mystery - three themes that are not necessarily appealing to men. However, "Betty and Coretta" is truly significant. It can bring the whole family together in understanding the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.

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