For this lesson, I invite you to watch the documentary titled 13TH.
The questions listed at the end of the lesson are from the Module 3 Discussion Board.
In the years prior to the release of 13TH, with the help of the Black Lives Matter movement and social media, there was significant rise in awareness around the amount of prejudice African Americans continue to face in the 21st century. The historical roots of this oppression run deep, as Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13TH reveals. The film looks back to the ratification of Amendment XIII, which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” DuVernay argues that a prison-industrial complex which statistically imprisons black men disproportionately and allows for their disciplinary servitude, has taken advantage of America’s black population and brings into question if this system ultimately acts as a form of modern day slavery.
Featuring a wide range of interviewees including civil rights activist Angela Davis, “The New Jim Crow” author Michelle Alexander, regular New Yorker reporter and professor Jelani Cobb, social justice author and attorney Van Jones, and many more, 13TH moves from the media-induced criminalization of black persons to the corporate privatization of prisons with eloquence, poise, and a cavalcade of statistics to back up its thesis on the dehumanization of black people in America.
While sobering in its historical recontextualization of race in America, DuVernay’s film remains hopeful in acknowledging her fellow African Americans’ diligence and grace in their fight for equality under intolerable conditions. No one knows how bright or dark the future of America will be, but as Jones vigilantly states, “It will be.”
Questions to answer for the Module 3 Discussion Board.
- What was your initial reaction after watching 13TH?
- If you are American, do you remember any of the political policies being put into place that has led to a rise in the prison population? Who promoted these policies? If you live outside of the United States, what similarities and/or differences did you observe between the political policies of your country and what is happening in America as presented by 13TH?
- What do you think about the present state of the American prison system? If you live elsewhere, what do you think of the prison system in your country in comparison?
- The film argues that there is a direct link between American slavery and the modern American prison system. What is your take on this argument?
- Finally, what 5 terms from the course can you connect to the film? Explain.