Photo courtesy of Aspire Network

Fifty years ago more than 200 thousand demonstrators participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in DC, during which Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Back then, cable was still in its infancy. But today, it’s covering myriad aspects of the civil rights movement through delivering live and enterprise coverage, special programming and digital content across platforms. Here’s a rundown of what several cable nets have in store for subscribers.

According to president and CEO Bill Abbott, Hallmark Channel believes it’s critical “for people, especially young people of today, to understand this part of our history. The way to do that is through inspiring, entertaining storytelling.” The network’s original film “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham,” premiering on September 20 and based on the Newberry-award winning novel, is Hallmark’s first foray into the subject of civil rights. But it also tells a story about family, so it’s right in the net’s sweet spot. The channel timed the premiere with the anniversary and is holding the screening at the Newseum in DC, which currently has a civil rights exhibit on display. Hallmark also will transport artifacts from another civil rights exhibit, which the mayor or Birmingham has curated to market the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

CNN is leveraging its multiple platforms with dynamic enterprise programming, featuring a new documentary of rare oral histories of the March, opinion editorials on the legacy of the event by key figures in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and curated photo galleries supplementing the network’s coverage of the live commemorative activities in the nation’s capital. Like numerous other networks, CNN will air President Obama’s remarks from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday.

BET is aiming to cover “every angle” of Wednesday’s activities celebrating the anniversary with its news special, “50: America Salutes The Dream.” Through the BET brand and its multiplatform approach, the network is “dedicated to informing and educating our audience and providing them with a platform so that they can discuss debate and actively participate in the issues that matter in our community,” Loretha Jones, president of original programming and news, told us. “We are proud to play this crucial role as a cable TV network for our audience and the new generation of Civil Rights leaders.”

Magic Johnson’s Aspire Network will air a live broadcast of Wednesday’s national “Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action Ceremony” (#MLKDream50) in DC. Prior to the ceremony, the network will air 2 documentaries: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: A Historical Perspective” and “King: Man of Peace, Time of War,” both featuring rare film footage. “Not many people know that the shape of the ‘A’ in our ASPiRE logo was in fact inspired by one distinctive image from the March on Washington where the crowd extends from the Lincoln Memorial, around the Reflecting Pool, and out to The Washington Monument,” said general manager Paul Butler.
 
TV One aired the documentary “Sing Your Song” on Sunday, profiling singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “TV One is honored to be among the many powerful vehicles shedding light on the people, places and things that impact civil rights issues,” a representative said. It’s a “privilege to be among the many creative threads in the tapestry of storytellers contributing to the timeline of events that have shaped the civil rights movement in this country,” she said.

Comcast/NBCU launched HisDreamOurStories.com, an interactive website featuring interviews with civic leaders, elders and activists involved in the civil rights movement. It will also allow visitors to submit and share their own stories. Check out a spot detailing the initiative here.
 

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