Last year, school-aged children got an up close and personal look at democracy, injustice, free speech and free assembly through the lens of civil unrest following the Michael Brown and Eric Garner shootings. For children raised in the 60s and 70s it was déjà vu.
Racial segregation and discrimination stirred Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders of their day to organize marches to the nation’s capital. Their efforts eventually led to equal voting rights and the end of discriminatory laws.
Now younger generations are learning more about King’s civil rights movement and the many struggles and sacrifices made on their behalf. Paramount Pictures says business leaders across the country have joined the effort to allow students to see "Selma" for free. The film chronicles events leading to the historic passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, including the relationship between King and President Lyndon Johnson.
The big screen history lesson is being offered in such cities as New York, Boston, Nashville, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC, New Orleans, and Dallas. Twenty-seven African American businesses in New York took the lead by creating a fund to provide 75,000 tickets to seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students to see the film.
So far, Los Angeles is not on the list and—ironically—Selma isn’t either. However, more cities will be added this week.
Produced and directed by Ava DuVernay, co-produced and co-starring Oprah Winfrey, “Selma” won a Golden Globe for “Best Original Song” (“Glory” by John Legend and Common) and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz.
As far as movements go, younger generations have the biggest impact in bringing about social change. They are more energetic, idealistic, and have seen just enough injustice to inspire them to action, but not enough to make them jaded. Because this civil rights movement was inspired by real events, young movie-goers will find teachable moments and cultural nuances that are not so evident in history books. Parents and grandparents can give children first-person accounts of what life was like during this historic period.
Sixth through eighth graders must present student ID cards or report cards for free admission. For updates on participating cities and theatres offering free student tickets, visit www.SelmaMovie.com/studenttickets .