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Initiative Promotes Civil Rights History With Free Documentaries

From guest blogger Alyssa Morones

A new initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities will provide schools and communities with free access to documentaries that trace the history of the civil rights movement, from the first seeds of change that sprouted in the 1820s to the 1967 Supreme Court decision that overturned the ban on interracial marriage.

The website was launched this week, and comes in the wake of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

In addition to selected clips from the documentaries, the initiative, called Created Equal, will feature an array of resources for communities to have their own film screenings and conduct reflective discussions, according to a press release from the NEH. The featured documentaries include The Abolitionists, Slavery by Another Name, The Loving Story, and Freedom Riders.

Funding for the Created Equal initiative comes through a cooperative agreement between the NEH and the Gilder Lehrman Institute. The NEH's Division of Public Programs, and its Bridging Cultures and We the People initiatives funded this cooperative agreement.

Over the next three years, the initiative will provide funding to 473 communities to host public discussion programs centered around the films, according to the press release. Each recipient will receive a film set and $1,200 in programming grants. The programs will be held at public libraries, museums, NAACP chapters, African American heritage sites, and cultural centers across the nation. Events already planned by these venues include everything from film screenings to book discussions to theatrical productions to interviews with former activists.

The website will also supply background essays by civil rights scholars and lesson plans to help teachers meet college and career-ready Standards through guided classroom discussions and by giving students the background texts and materials necessary to assert and defend an argument.

Speaking of the civil rights movement, we noted in a recent blog post here that new social studies standards in Tennessee have won high marks from the Southern Poverty Law Center for their treatment of the issue.

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