The National School Boards Association has announced that the story of 12 Years a Slave will be added to public high school curriculums across the United States in September. This new initiative, partly promoted, distributed, and funded by TV veteran Montel Williams, will include the 1853 original memoir by Solomon Northup, the film 12 Years a Slave directed by Steve McQueen, and a study guide.
The story of a freeman kidnapped into slavery, isn’t the first that Williams has pushed to get onto a school curriculum. He also made major successful moves to add 1989’s Glory, starring Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, into schools as well. Glory told the story of the Civil War’s all-black 54th regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
Individual school districts can decide whether or not they will utilize the story in their lesson plans. However, isn’t this a necessary chapter in American history, no matter how disturbing and violent, that the youth of our entire country should be learning? No matter how small or large a certain community’s experience was with slavery in the past, learning and knowing even just one story of the horrors of forced servitude would be beneficial for anyone, especially in today’s still-racist society.
“When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool,” said Montel Williams in a statement. “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.”
The film 12 Years a Slave has been heavily decorated this awards season, with its most recent wins at the NAACP Image Awards and the annual Satellite Awards. It is anticipated to win another possible huge victory at this Sunday’s Academy Awards for Best Picture.