NSBA and partners to distribute Academy Award-winning motion picture “12 Years a Slave” to public high schools


NSBA has partnered with New Regency, Fox Searchlight, Penguin Books, and the filmmakers to make copies of the acclaimed film, book, and study guide “12 Years a Slave” available to America’s public high schools.

This nationwide educational initiative was the brainchild of director Steve McQueen and television personality Montel Williams. Educators who gain permission to teach “12 Years a Slave” to their students will receive a free kit which includes: a DVD copy of the film (edited version with disclaimer/parental consent requested); a paperback copy of the Penguin book; the “12 Years a Slave” printed study guide; and a letter from McQueen. Any U.S. public high school teacher with permission to add this to the high school curriculum may go to www.12yearsaslave.com and click on the button for teachers to opt in and request an educators’ toolkit for their school.

“12 Years a Slave” is based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.

“I am thrilled that my dream of having ‘12 Years a Slave’ available to high school students is finally a reality. Solomon Northup’s powerful story needs to be shared and remembered for generations to come. This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn about the past. I truly appreciate the efforts of Montel Williams, NSBA, New Regency, Penguin Books, and Fox Searchlight for making this happen,” said Steve McQueen, Director of “12 Years a Slave.”

“When I first saw the film, it was clear to me that it could be a teaching tool in high schools. I see it as a way for teachers to make the issue of slavery, the brutal truths of which are all too common in the world today in some places. Slavery is a worldwide problem and even in the U.S. children are abducted and sold into slavery. This film vividly conveys the evils of slavery. By giving teachers one more tool to start discussions and through education and awareness our kids can dream big about a brighter future for the world,” commented Williams.

“12 Years a Slave,” winner of Best Motion Picture of the Year, as well as Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards®, is a film that depicts the harrowing tale of a New York State-born free black man kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. This groundbreaking film proceeded to win over 132 awards this past year.

“This riveting story of injustice and brutality is a potent teaching and learning opportunity,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Telling the story of the evils of slavery to greater numbers of U.S. public high school students will help to ensure that this tragic chapter in our nation’s history is not forgotten.”

A launch event for this educational initiative has been planned in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act on September 25th at Howard University in Washington, D.C. McQueen, Williams and NSBA Immediate Past President David Pickler will participate in a town hall moderated by political analyst Michelle Bernard to discuss their plans to keep “12 Years a Slave” in the forefront of the nation’s minds by making Northrup’s story available to every public high school in the U.S. Also in attendance at this event will be a group of students from Suitland High School in Maryland along with their teachers.

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