Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle

Created Equal: Americas Civil Rights Struggle
A special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Visit the NEH Created Equal website.

Upcoming Events

Screening and Discussion of "Freedom Riders" at Mid-Continent Public Library
Special Events
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Screening and Discussion of "The Loving Story" at Mid-Continent Public Library
Special Events
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Saturday, April 12, 2014
View All

To mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Endowment for the Humanities has developed a special project as part of its Bridging Cultures initiative: Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle. Up to 500 communities across the nation will receive a packaged set of NEH-funded films on Civil Rights history, accompanied by programming resources to guide public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in U.S. history.

The Created Equal initiative was developed through a partnership of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Resources related to the four films can be found on this page. Created Equal sites can learn more about project logistics by watching the July 2013 webinar.

Connecting the stories of America’s long civil rights struggle: a conversation with James Leach and Earl Lewis.

“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 Blight, historian

Project Overview:

As part of the Endowment’s Bridging Cultures initiative, “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle” will encourage communities across the country to revisit the history of civil rights in the U.S. and to reflect on the ideals of freedom and equality that have helped bridge deep racial and cultural divides in American life. Scheduled to launch in 2013 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, this program will offer a packaged set of NEH-funded films on Civil Rights history to up to 500 communities across the nation over three years (from 2013 to 2016). Four powerful documentary films (The Abolitionists, Slavery by Another Name, Freedom Riders and The Loving Story) will be accompanied by in-depth programming resources to help guide productive community discussions.

Deeply grounded in humanities scholarship, these films tell a remarkable story–about the importance of race in the making of American democracy, about the power of individuals to effect change, and about the historical contexts in which Americans have understood and struggled with ideas of freedom, equality, and citizenship.

The documentaries address events from the 1800s through 1965 and several themes resonate among these films: the search for equal rights as defined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the roles of individuals and grassroots groups in bringing about a more just society, and the evolving understanding of democracy and freedom in the history of the United States. The films include:


The Abolitionists

A small group of moral reformers in the 1830s launched one of the most ambitious social movements imaginable: the immediate emancipation of millions of African Americans held in bondage, at a time when slavery was one of the most powerful economic and political forces in the United States. Produced and directed by Rob Rapley. Sharon Grimberg, executive producer for American Experience, WGBH.


Slavery by Another Name

Even as slavery ended in the south after the Civil War, new forms of forced labor kept thousands of African Americans in bondage until the onset of World War II. Based on the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same title by Douglas Blackmon. Produced and directed by Sam Pollard. Catherine Allan, executive producer for Twin Cities Public Television. Douglas A. Blackmon, co-executive producer. A production of TPT National Productions, in association with Two Dollars & A Dream, Inc.

The Loving Story

The moving account of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. Their struggle culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia (1967) which overturned anti-miscegenation laws in the United States.  Directed by Nancy Buirski; produced by Nancy Buirski and Elisabeth Haviland James. A co-production of Augusta Films and HBO Films. Distributed by Icarus Films.


Freedom Riders 

The Freedom Rides of 1961 were a pivotal moment in the long Civil Rights struggle that redefined America. Based on Raymond Arsenault’s recent book, this documentary film offers an inside look at the brave band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South. Produced and directed by Stanley Nelson. Mark Samels, executive producer for American Experience, WGBH.