Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle brings four outstanding films on the long civil rights movement to communities across the United States. As part of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)’s Bridging Cultures initiative, Created Equal will encourage communities across the country to revisit the history of civil rights in America and to reflect on the ideals of freedom and equality that have helped bridge deep racial and cultural divides in our civic life. Four outstanding documentary films, spanning the period from the 1830s to the 1960s, are the centerpiece for this project. Each of these films was supported by NEH, and each tells remarkable stories of individuals who challenged the social and legal status quo of deeply rooted institutions, from slavery to segregation.
As the Created Equal films have been viewed, they have begun a conversation. In public libraries, in school classrooms and churches across the nation, on Twitter, blogs and Facebook pages, people of all ages, different races and walks of life have been moved to continue talking about the themes raised by the films. Many are inspired; some are outraged. Often, viewers are left are pondering what it takes to achieve real change in a democracy, what can be learned from the struggles of those who went before us, and how to connect their own lives and experiences to this powerful history of heroism and struggle.
The Created Equal project extends and deepens those discussions, offering scholarly resources and program guides to help Americans to reflect on the legacy and meaning of our shared civil rights history. As we launch this project and distribute film sets to communities across America, we invite each of you to join in this important conversation.
Created Equal films will be featured in screenings, discussions, and other public programs in 500 communities across the nation from September 2013 through December 2016. The Gilder Lehrman Institute, which has a track record of working with public and academic libraries on public programs in American history, has developed program resources for the sites that will host film programs.
Click here to find a Created Equal film program at a museum, library, or community organization near you.
The NEH and Civil Rights History
"The legacy of slavery and emancipation forever forces us to face morally and ideologically who we believe we really are as a people.” -David Blight, historian.
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“The legacy of slavery and emancipation forever forces us to face morally and ideologically who we believe we really are as a people. Are we the people who freed slaves in an all-out civil war with a huge portion of the country trying desperately to prevent it, or the country that can actually face this dual, complicated legacy head-on? And, are we the country that truly believes in section one of the Fourteenth Amendment that emancipation spawned, or do we simply go to it selectively to use it to our own personal or group ends? The legacies of emancipation are likely forever with us in this country; just who and what gets to control those legacies is what shapes the history in our own time.”
The civil rights movement is an essential part of the history of the nation, one that offers profound lessons about democracy and social change. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has been at the forefront as our understanding of the long history of the movement has evolved. NEH supported pioneering research that has both documented the history of well-known movement leaders and uncovered events and individuals who were largely forgotten. NEH teacher institutes have shared this new scholarship with educators, and our museum and library exhibitions and documentary film and radio programs have brought the voices and images of the civil rights era into homes and classrooms across America. Created Equal grows out of this longstanding involvement in civil rights scholarship.
Created Equal Scholar Essays
The NEH and the Gilder Lehrman Institute invited four distinguished scholars to write essays exploring the themes and questions at the heart of these documentaries.