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American Experience; Citizen King


PAL Master dubbed at Global Vision for BBC

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American Experience
Citizen King
Program Number


Series Description

Premiered October 1988 As television's longest-running, most-watched history series, American Experience brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that helped form this nation. Now in its eighteenth season, the series has produced over 180 programs and garnered every major broadcast award. Series release date: 10/1988

Program Description

Framed by the Lincoln Memorial speech and his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, Citizen King traces King’s effort to recast himself by embracing causes beyond the civil rights movement—to “transform and re-structure the whole of American society” as he put it. In this brief, five-year span, his decision would alienate many of his closest friends and further inflame his enemies. King took repeated leaps of faith as he cast aside political caution in favor of following a path that would make more difficult—and dangerous—his already challenging life. As he began to speak out against the war in Vietnam and refashion himself as the leader of a crusade on behalf of the poor and dispossessed in America, King was accused of abandoning his mission. But for King, the change heralded a return to his roots as a preacher and provided a welcome relief from the public persona he had reluctantly taken on years before. He traveled to big cities and small towns not to speak to poor people, but to listen to the testimony of their lives, promising them that through him a nation would hear their voices. In April 1968, in defiance of his closest advisors, King took a side trip from his Poor People’s Campaign and traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to show his support of a tense, unpredictable strike of garbage workers. He was determined to fulfill his pledge that the needs of poor and working-class people were the causes to which he must dedicate his life. His fateful decision brought about the collision of a nation’s hopes and fears, as King’s prophetic voice was abruptly silenced by an assassin’s bullet.



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Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “American Experience; Citizen King,” 12/13/2004, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed March 22, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7816E9E12C4B4D739A0164AD6A7B2716.
MLA: “American Experience; Citizen King.” 12/13/2004. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. March 22, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7816E9E12C4B4D739A0164AD6A7B2716>.
APA: American Experience; Citizen King. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_7816E9E12C4B4D739A0164AD6A7B2716
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