We met director Ava DuVernay on the red carpet of the 72nd Golden Globe Awards and talked about Archbishop Iakovos’ portrayal in her Golden Globe nominated film “Selma.” She says it was important to have him in the film because he was one of the first community leaders to support Dr. King.
The Greek-Orthodox Archbishop was a strong supporter of the 1964 Civil Rights legislation for which he had also received death threats. Watch our interview with Ava DuVernay talking about Archbishop Iakovos, biracial tensions in today’s America, plus an interview with Selma star David Oyelowo:
Archbishop Iakovos was known in the U.S. as the committed and caring pastor who put the Greek Orthodox Faith on the map for Americans and beyond. He was the first Greek Archbishop in 350 years to officially confer with a pope, leaving behind a tremendous body of work as the primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in North and South America for 37 years.
However, Iakovos was also a champion of civil and human rights who showed his support to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. not only with his words, but also with his actions. He was one of the first powerful people to embrace the ideas of Dr. King and march hand in hand with him in 1965 in Selma, Ala.
“He had received threats if he would dare to walk with Dr. King, but he never thought twice of his decision,” says a close aid and friend of the Archbishop.
This historic moment for America was captured on the cover of LIFE Magazine on March 26, 1965.
The New York Times reported, “The striking cover of Time magazine that showed Dr. King side by side with the black-garbed Archbishop Iakovos marked a new presence of Greek Americans and the Greek Orthodox church in American life.”
Iakovos vigorously supported the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights legislation, exclaiming when the first bill was passed:
“Glory to the Most High! May this mark the beginning of a new age for all humankind, an era when the Word of God charts and guides our lives.”
Iakovos’ decision to support Dr. King, and the publicity his action received, brought Greek-Americans and African-Americans much closer, resulting in a friendship that the two communities celebrate until this day!
The enthronement of Archbishop Iakovos took place on April 1, 1959 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in New York City. He served as Archbishop until 1996 and passed away on April 10, 2005 (at age 93).