In his debut commentary today on CBS This Morning, Wynton Marsalis recalled that he was in the second grade in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated. He talked about being immersed in the black culture and life of New Orleans in the late 1960s, about having a poster of Malcolm X over his bed, about being angry well into his teens, about thinking that King was an Uncle Tom.
My job in New Orleans when Marsalis was a little boy involved reporting on the events and movements of those days when the Civil Rights Law had been on the books for nearly four years, black people were struggling for what the Congress had given them on paper, and much of the southern power structure was fightingoften violentlyto see that they didn’t get it. By way of my reporting and my connection with the jazz community, I knew Wynton’s father Ellis, many other black musicians and hundreds of ordinary and extraordinary black citizens in the South. I understood something of their rage and frustration. I also knew of the tolerance, hope and humor that helped see them through that dark time.
Wynton’s CBS essay, a beautifully produced piece of television, recounts the incident that began to turn around his attitude toward MLK. It goes on to draw a bigger conclusion about this life that we’re all in together and what we owe one another. It is worth watching. To see it, go here.