Today, March 27th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1964 premiere of “I Am the Night – Color Me Black.”
Of all the 156 TZ episodes, this one from the pen of Rod Serling has even more resonance today than it did 54 years ago. Terry Becker portrays the condemned man who killed a bigot to save a black man's life. Michael Constantine is the sheriff who must hang him, and Paul Fix is the newspaper man who hasn't done enough to stifle the hate in the town.
Oh, and then there's the fact that the sun hasn't risen. This small hate-filled town is coated in darkness, as are hateful communities all over the planet.
Today, of course, we're still knee-deep in hate, and Serling, if he were alive, would no doubt be writing about the polarization of America, the threat of international terrorism, the rise of nationalism, the anti-immigrant movement, etc.
This was not typical television in 1964, by any means. Serling had complete creative control and could choose the stories he wished to tell. He had always been particularly concerned about racism, hatred, and the plight of people of all races. We sure could use him today.
Ivan Dixon, who had previously played the boxer in "The Big Tall Wish," returns in this episode as a sympathetic African American priest. George Lindsay, who would later play the comical Goober on The Andy Griffith Show, portrays a bigoted deputy. Abner Biberman does a terrific directing job.
So let's raise a toast to the moral compass of Rod Serling, a shining light who would constantly challenge the status quo of storytelling and brings us unparalleled insight into the human condition, presented for your approval in The Twilight Zone.