Move over Christopher Columbus, a new American history is about to be taught in schools.
Starting in September, the film, the book and a study guide will be distributed to public high schools by the National School Boards Association in partnership with New Regency, Penguin Books and the filmmakers.
Former talk show host Montel Williams coordinated the program, modeled after the similar distribution of the Civil War film Glory in schools.
“When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool,” Mr. Williams said 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 move to take the Oscar-nominated film from the big screen to the text-book has long been a dream of McQueen’s.
“Since first reading ‘12 Years a Slave,’ it has been my dream that this book be taught in schools,” he said.
School districts, however, will be able to decide if they want the narrative of Solomon Northrop to be incorporated into their curricula.
“This gives high school teachers a lot of options, so they can decide how they can fit it in with the curricula they’re teaching,” Tom Gentzel, executive director of the NSBA, told TIME. He added that individual school districts will decide whether to teach the film once they have it. “[Slavery] is an important topic, and it’s an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Either way, come September, the introduction of McQueen’s translation of Northrop’s story (a free black man living in upstate New York who was abducted and sold into slavery) is an unprecedented and historic move that is sure to raise questions and create dialogue focused on America’s dark past.
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SOURCE: NYT, TIME | PHOTO CREDIT: Screengrab