Dr. King and the Image of God: A Theology of Voting Rights in Ava DuVernay’s Selma

  • Author(s): Marcos Norris
  • When: 2016-04
  • Where: Journal of Religion & Film
  • This article argues that Ava DuVernay’s 2014 film Selma develops a theology of voting rights by staging a conflict between President Lyndon B. Johnson and political activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Though many reviewers fault the film for its besmirching portrayal of LBJ, DuVernay’s (mis)representations of Johnson establish a link between the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and King’s theological anthropology. In King’s view, mankind was created in the image of God, endowed with free will and the capacity to reason. The denial of Black voting rights, while literally depriving African Americans of their political agency, also represented the disavowal of God’s image, for King. DuVernay shows how King defers moral responsibility from himself to Johnson, who, equipped with the image of God, can make the rational free choice to pass legislation on Black voting rights and thereby restore Black political agency and, with it, the image of God.

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