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Curriculum Update

‘12 Years a Slave’ to become high school curriculum

Free curriculum includes Oscar-winning movie, the book it’s based on and a study guide

High schools will soon have access to a free curriculum based on the Academy Award-winning film and memoir 12 Years a Slave.

The National School Boards Associaton is partnering with New Regency entertainment, Penguin Books and the filmmakers to give public high schools copies of the 2014 Best Picture winner, the book it’s based on and a study guide. Talk-show host Montel Williams is coordinating the distribution of the movie.

The curriculum is modeled after a similar program that Williams led nearly 20 years ago to distribute the Civil War film Glory to schools. In February, Williams told CNN: “This is an opportunity for us to have something that tells the truth and can emotionally involve children in a way that they’ll understand what the pain of this era caused and what it could cause again.”

12 Years a Slave tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man born in New York who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery. He remained a slave in Louisiana for more than a decade before regaining his freedom in 1853.

“Allowing students to see the tragic circumstances and messages conveyed through these works is vital to learning and reflecting on our nation’s era of slavery,” says Thomas J. Gentzel, NSBA’s executive director. “We appreciate the strong initiative by the producers of 12 Years a Slave and Montel Williams to bring this vividly accurate, award-winning film to America’s public high schools.”

The curriculum is well-suited to history and English courses, says NSBA spokesperson Linda Embery. The curriculum will be available in September, but interested administrators can contact the NSBA now.