Skip to main content

You are here

General

About This Guide

This Created Equal Programming Guide provides project information and resources for sites using the film set for public programming. The Guide’s Toolkit for Facilitated Discussion provides resources and models for developing local public screening and discussion events exploring the changing meaning of freedom and equality.

The Guide is organized into six sections:

We hope you will find this guide helpful as you develop Created Equal programming for your community.  

Overview

Overview of the Created Equal Initiative

“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.”

DAVID W. BLIGHT, Historian

To mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has developed a special initiative, Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle. As part of the Endowment’s Bridging Cultures initiative, Created Equal uses the power of documentary films to spark public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America. 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 the NEH, and each tells the remarkable stories of individuals who challenged the social and legal status quo of deeply rooted institutions, from slavery to segregation.

Created Equal encourages communities 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. Four hundred and seventy-three communities across the nation will receive the Created Equal film set, accompanied by resources to guide public discussion programs.

With the participation of distinguished scholars, these resources were developed through a partnership of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Since its founding in 1965, the NEH has been a chronicler of the struggle for freedom and human dignity at the core of the American experience. As a steward of the nation’s history, NEH has helped scholars and the public better understand this long narrative of civil rights. The Gilder Lehrman Institute, which has a track record of working with public and academic libraries on public programs in American history, has developed programmatic and support materials for the sites and hosted an orientation webinar, and will manage the logistical and reporting process.

As the Created Equal films have been viewed, they have inspired conversations. In public libraries, in school classrooms, and in churches across the nation, on Twitter, blogs, and Facebook pages, people of all ages and different races and walks of life have been moved to continue talking about the themes presented in the films. Often, viewers are left 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 our own lives and experiences to this history of heroism and struggle.

The Created Equal initiative extends and deepens those discussions, offering scholarly resources and program guides to help Americans reflect on the legacy and meaning of our shared civil rights history. As we launch this initiative and distribute film sets to communities across the nation, we invite each of you to join this important conversation.

Acknowledgments

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to acknowledge the institutions and individuals who have contributed to the planning, development, and implementation of Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle.

We recognize the Tribeca Film Institute for sharing its reading and discussion model, which has been freely adapted for this programming guide, and the New York Council for the Humanities for sharing their moderated discussion plans.

We also gratefully acknowledge the work of the advisors who guided the Created Equal initiative: Ray Arsenault (University of Southern Florida, St. Petersburg), David W. Blight (Yale University), W. Fitzhugh Brundage (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Lonnie G. Bunch (National Museum of African American History and Culture), Jane Dailey (University of Chicago), Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard University), Pamela Green (Weeksville Heritage Center), Jane McNamara (New York Council for the Humanities), Richard Newman (Rochester Institute of Technology), and Clement A. Price (Rutgers University)

Finally, a special thanks to:

  • Eva Caldera, Assistant Chairman for Partnership and Strategic Initiatives, NEH
  • Timothy Gunn, Director, America’s Music Project, Tribeca Film Institute
  • Karen Kenton, Senior Program Officer, Division of Public Programs, NEH
  • Karen Mittelman, Director, Division of Public Programs, NEH
  • Leah Nahmias, Program Officer, New York Council for the Humanities
  • Carol Peters, Project Director, EDSITEment: The Best of the Humanities on the Web
  • Joseph Phelan, Program Specialist, EDSITEment: The Best of the Humanities on the Web

Susan F. Saidenberg, Created Equal Project Director
and Director of Publications and Exhibitions
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Contact Information

For questions regarding Programming Resources & Curriculum Materials

Contact:
Beth Huffer
Coordinator of Exhibitions and Multimedia Publications
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History   
49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor   
New York, NY 10036   
Phone: 646.366.9666 ext. 38   
Fax: 646.366.9669   
Email: huffer@gilderlehrman.org

For questions regarding Created Equal Themes & Grant Stipends

Contact:
Susan F. Saidenberg, Project Director
Director of Publications and Exhibitions
   
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History       
49 W. 45th Street, 6th Floor   
New York, NY 10036       
Phone: 646.366.9666 ext. 14   
Fax: 646.366.9669   
Email: saidenberg@gilderlehrman.org

 

Download the PDF version of this content

For Teachers

Explore Created Equal in the Classroom:

- Equality Under the Law
- The Power of the Individual
- The Strategy of Nonviolence

Community Programs

The NEH Created Equal project uses the power of documentary films to encourage public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America.

Changing America Exhibit

Find a "Changing America" exhibit in your community.