AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ Tackles Race Relations, Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Calling it a day: Joan sends Don's secretary home for the day
Calling it a day: Joan sends Don’s secretary home for the day

AMC’s Emmy Award-winning drama series Mad Men, about advertising executives in the 1960s, though critically-acclaimed, has often taken flak in its six seasons for not acknowledging or dealing with the racial tensions of the times.  This season, which takes place during the tumultuous year of 1968, has already devoted more airtime to its most prominent African-American character, Dawn, the lead character Don Draper’s secretary.  And last night, in an episode titled “The Flood,” the show recreated perhaps the most historic moment in the civil rights struggle — the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The show’s characters learn of King’s death over the radio and in an advertising awards show crowd.  Meanwhile, panic spreads as rioting takes hold in major cities across the country.  Vintage Walter Cronkite reports play as police and ambulance sirens blare.  In one scene, a character is upbraided for lamenting the loss of TV advertising profits in the wake of MLK’s death.  In another, a black character calls out rioters for not living up to King’s example.  Additionally, the African-American secretaries are all suddenly treated with kid gloves by their white supervisors — aware that the civil right’s leader’s death is perceived as a blow to the fight against racial prejudice.

To read more about this Mad Men episode, check out the links below:

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson; additional reporting by Lesa Lakin

 

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