The Mighty Mississippi with Trevor McDonald continues on ITV1


In the second part of the series, Trevor visits Morgan Freeman and talks to him about his childhood in the Deep South. He meets a close friend of Dr Martin Luther King who was standing next to him when he was assassinated, and he visits one of Elvis Presley’s first and much-loved girlfriends.

The second part of his journey begins in the quiet town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he meets actor, Morgan Freeman. Morgan tells Trevor that when he was growing up the segregation of black and white people was rigidly enforced, but it didn’t really trouble him until he reached his teenage years.

He says: “I still remember my childhood as being a lot of freedom. I’d get up in the morning, aged four, five, and go hunt my best friend and we would just run. That’s what I remember. I was going to a very good school, I had very good teachers. I was in a very safe environment. What white people did, I didn’t care about.

“I knew that we were separate, if I went into town then there were the separate facilities; the waiting room at the bus station, the water fountains. I didn’t have to go, and I didn’t go, so it didn’t bother me. By the time I graduated from high school, I did have this feeling about Mississippi’s state of apartheid and when I left, I was leaving for good.”

Morgan explains that he started going back to Mississippi when his parents moved back there in the mid 1950s and he eventually returned to live there himself. However, he reveals that he was shocked to discover that although children now go to mixed schools in his local town, they were still encouraged to socialise separately out of school.

Morgan explains that he discovered that black and white teenagers were not going to the same prom so he decided to fund the first integrated prom in Clarksdale in 2008.

He says: “The realisation that even in the 21st century, this kind of thing was being perpetrated upon the children, I just found it bizarre. We’re talking 21st century.”

Trevor adds: “What’s extraordinary to me is that there’s a black man sitting in The White House.”

Morgan jokes: “Did you say that there’s a black man sitting in The White House? What’s he doing there?”

After leaving Morgan, Trevor goes for a dance at one of the most famous Blues clubs in the area, Ground Zero, which is co-owned by Morgan Freeman.

The next part of his journey takes Trevor to Memphis, Tennessee and he takes a walk down Beale Street where music legends including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, BB King and Otis Redding have all played.

Memphis is renowned for being the home of Elvis since he was 13 and Trevor visits the studio where he used to record his music. He is shown the cross which marks the exact spot where Elvis used to stand and which is kissed every day by fans.

Moving away from the vibrant atmosphere of Beale Street, Trevor sees a very different part of Memphis which has never recovered from the shooting of Dr Martin Luther King.

Trevor heads to the Mason Temple where Dr King made his last ever public speech and meets Rev Samuel Kyles, the friend and colleague of Dr King who was with him on the day he was shot.

Rev Kyles explains that Dr King was not expecting many people to turn up to the temple because there was a storm. Nevertheless, the temple ended up packed to the rafters and Rev Kyles explains that Dr King made reference to recent death threats he had received.

He tells Trevor: “He had said on occasions, ‘I may not live to be 40, even though I would like to.’ And that’s what people didn’t realise, how young he was. He wasn’t even 40. He knew his time wasn’t long, he just didn’t have a time and a date. He said, ‘I may not get there.’ And I’m so certain he knew he wouldn’t get there. I’m so certain he knew it, but instead of saying, ‘I will not,’ he softened it for us and said, ‘I may not,’ knowing full well that he would not.”

Rev Kyles added: “It was wonderful. He just lifted us out of our seats. He worked himself and preached himself through the fear of death, pushed it away from him. Just got it away from him and that’s what he held on to. The next day dinner was to be served at my home and he was in such a joyful mood because he got all that death thing away from him.”

Trevor goes with Rev Kyles to the motel where Dr King was shot. Rev Kyles explains that he was going to the motel to take Dr King out for dinner and there are emotional scenes as he recalls the evening and what happened as Dr King came out of his hotel room to wave to his fans and was shot.

He tells Trevor: “I felt I was having a nightmare, but the nightmare was, I was awake.”

Trevor visits room 306 at the Lorraine motel which has been preserved exactly as it was the night Dr King walked out of it for the last time.

Following the murder of Dr King, many business and homeowners left Memphis and parts of it have never recovered. Trevor meets one fashion designer who stayed in the city and owns a penthouse apartment overlooking the river.

In 1973, the city was thrown a lifeline by a businessman who started what is now one of the largest corporations in the world, FedEx. Sixty per cent of the company’s parcels from around the world are handled in Memphis. Trevor visits the city’s international airport, which each evening closes to domestic flights as the FedEx planes start touching down every few minutes.

As they travel across the airport in golf buggies, Trevor chats to the manager who tells him the company has shipped everything from pandas and gorillas to race cars.

Leaving Memphis behind, Trevor heads to Trenton, Tennessee, to the home of 74-year-old Barbara Hearn who used to be Elvis Presley’s girlfriend.

Barbara shows Trevor photographs of herself and Elvis dancing together in his home when they were just 19 and she explains that she couldn’t believe that she was dating him.

She says: “I used to stand at the window and look at all the girls lining Audubon Drive…and I would wonder, ‘Why am I on the inside and they’re on the outside?’ One reason, I think, is that I had known him before, I think he trusted me.

“I dated him steadily for a year. He never dated anybody steadily…and that’s another thing that’s very strange about him, any other boyfriend I had that wasn’t faithful to me would have been shown the door. With Elvis it was different, you could understand, and I would understand the girls going after him as well.”

As they listen to Elvis records, Barbara tells Trevor that he once bought her a car so that she didn’t have to catch the bus to college. She also says that she wishes he’d have stayed in her life longer and reveals the reason she didn’t go to his funeral.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012, 9:00PM – 10:00PM ITV1