Public high school students will soon have a new piece of media, along with films like classroom mainstay Roots, to teach about the horrors and legacy of slavery.
Since 12 Years A Slave was released last year, director Steve McQueen has spoken about his desire to see Solomon Northup's autobiography of the same name integrated into school curricula. It looks like he'll finally get his wish as the National School Boards Association (NSBA) has partnered with New Regency, Penguin Books, and Fox Searchlight to distribute copies of the 1853 memoir, along with the acclaimed film and accompanying study guide to America’s public high schools.
The initiative, organized by talk show host and NSBA spokesperson Montel Williams, is modeled after a program that Williams developed to integrate the film Glory into public schools years ago.
"12 Years a Slave is one of the most impactful films in recent memory, and I am honored to have been able to bring together Fox Searchlight and National School Boards Association to maximize its educational potential. When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool. This film uniquely highlights a shameful period in American history, and in doing so will evoke in students a desire to not repeat the evils of the past while inspiring them to dream big of a better and brighter future, and I’m proud to be a part of that," said Williams in an announcement released this weekend.
This comes as good news, as media becomes increasingly important to reaching students accustomed to getting their information from the moving image and the web. It would be nice to see other issue-centered films, for example Fruitvale Station, take up this model as well, even in excerpt form.
12 Years A Slave educational materials are set to be distributed in the upcoming school year, in September 2014.