Nice, PBS. The network is airing the documentary “John Lewis — Get in the Way” Friday night at 10:30 on WGBH 2.
The airing is part of Black History Month programming, but it also comes in the wake of Donald Trump’s attack on Representative Lewis, the veteran Georgia Democrat and civil rights hero. Trump, as you may recall, tweeted that Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk — no action or results” in January, tacking on one of his signature summarizing judgments: “Sad.”
The documentary, by Kathleen Dowdey (and funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2014), will show just how wrong — and sad — Trump was in his tweet. Lewis has been all action, action, action for many decades, having first been arrested and jailed during the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. At the 1963 March on Washington, he was the youngest speaker, and in 1965 he led the Bloody Sunday march in Selma. His long list of accomplishments and honors is remarkable.
Now 76, Lewis doesn’t rest on his laurels. After the Orlando massacre, he led a sit-in with House Democrats to demand a vote on gun reform laws.
In the film, which was on the PBS docket before the Trump feud, Lewis recalls the historical events he was part of, and uses the phrase that provides the title: “You must find a way to get in the way and make our country a better place.” He grew up as the child of Alabama sharecroppers, and from an early age he didn’t understand segregation and the signs reading “Whites Only.” He says, “I would ask my mother, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Don’t get into trouble.’ But I got in trouble.”
The film also includes interviews with civil rights activists Andrew Young, Juanita Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, and Bernard Lafayette, as well as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and former Nevada senator Harry Reid.