Mad Men, the critically-acclaimed AMC drama series about advertising executives in the 1960s, recreated an incredibly historic moment in the civil rights struggle on tonight’s episode.
This season (the show’s sixth), 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.
But tonight, the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took center stage in dramatic fashion.
The show’s characters learn of his 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 particularly powerful 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 says that she knew King’s death was inevitable and calls out rioters for not living up to his example.
Interestingly, the African-American secretaries are all 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.
While Mad Men has touched on real-life history before (such as JFK’s assassination), it has rarely dealt so overtly with the racial tensions of its time period.