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.