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For Teachers

How to Use Created Equal in the Classroom: Overview

Four films are the centerpiece of the project Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle. The films, The Abolitionists, Slavery by Another Name, The Loving Story, and Freedom Riders, connect the stories of the long civil rights movement and address issues of race and rights. The films invite students to confront the complicated history of race relations in this nation from the perspectives of individuals who felt personally wronged and through the eyes of those who saw themselves as part of a larger persecuted and disenfranchised community. Further, the films document the efforts of individuals to bring about equality for all races in through the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. Each explores a different time period, from the antebellum abolitionist movement through the post–Civil War transition period for African Americans, and into the late twentieth century.

The struggle to repudiate racism, provide opportunities and protections for African Americans, and enact legislation to support racial equality is the common thread running through the films. The issues and themes that resonate among the films and invite discussion are:

  • Equality under the law as an ideal and a reality
  • The Power of the individual and of grass roots activism to bring about legal reform
  • The Strategy of nonviolence

Teachers are encouraged to draw upon and bring these themes to life through classroom viewings coupled with discussion groups and the suggested curriculum material included on this site. Given time constraints, the videos may be assigned to a setting in a library/media center so that students may also view and take notes outside of the classroom setting.

How to Use Created Equal to Meet Common Core Standards

The history of the long civil rights struggle represented in The Created Equal film set and website is an absorbing and thrilling story that defines who we are as a nation. The Common Core State Standards require that history be taught with a series of skills that will increase student literacy. In combination with the Common Core State Standards, the resources on this website will help create a more literate student: one who—by being able to argue and defend an assertion based on evidence gained from an experience with complex, informational texts—has a deeper understanding of history.

Common Core Literacy standards in Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening can all be addressed using the thematic content presented by these state-of-the-art documentaries. After viewing a series of recommended clips and thinking through the accompanying questions, students have the opportunity to participate in a discussion of the central themes of the civil rights struggle and then engage in writing activities built on the primary evidence that they saw presented in the films.

The Common Core writing standards for history are very specific and detailed regarding the presentation of evidence in order to express an argument or conclusion. These four compelling documentaries offer a substantial number of topics within Created Equal’s three main themes that can be used by an educator for engaging students in a substantive essay project.

The Power of the Individual and of Grass Roots Activism to Bring about Legal Reform

  • Make an argument that seemingly ordinary people have played a pivotal role in the pursuit of racial justice.
  • How has strength of character in different individuals advanced the cause of equality?  Provide examples of those people and their strengths.

The Strategy of Nonviolence

  • How effective has nonviolence been at different times in the pursuit of racial equality?
  • Across all four films there are those who fight for racial justice. What do they have in common? How do their methods differ?

Equality under the Law as an Ideal and a Reality

  • How has the  law been used to reinforce racial inequality?
  • How successful was  legislation as a tool to undermine racist practices?

These are just a few of the possible questions that a teacher could have students pursue following a close study of the films. Of course, integrating other primary source print materials that tie into the films is another way of addressing both close reading of complex texts and  as adding to the richness of your civil rights curriculum.

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.