This extraordinary and powerful film should be required viewing for all ninth graders in America. Because of it’s extraordinary realism.This is not slavery in the abstract, or in the cartoon world of Quentin Tarantino’s "Django Unchained". The brutal realism makes it impossible to believe that such cruelty in the name of God is possible between human beings. It is this very incomprehensibility that makes it so powerful and real.
Why the 9th Grade?
It would provide a framework for discussion and understanding about the effects of racism and sexism both historically and in the present day. It would graphically illustrate a chapter of history that Americans so seldom get to see. And frankly, this is an ideal age to make an impression on those who would bully others. The plight of the main character, Solomon Northrop, horrible as it may be - a free man from North, tricked into traveling south and sold as a slave in Washington DC - is made more harrowing still in contrast to the miserable lives of those who were born into slavery. This is an opportunity to cultivate and instill genuine empathy as a core value in our youth, to open a dialogue about the melting pot that is America and it’s truly tumultuous history. There is so much of our history that was borne out of violence that we don’t learn in school. If we don’t know the truth and acknowledge it, how can we ever expect our children to learn from it?