Is a Graphic Slavery Film Too Much for 9-Year-Olds?

Illustration for article titled Is a Graphic Slavery Film Too Much for 9-Year-Olds?

The Huffington Post reports that a Chicago teacher's decision to show The Middle Passage to a fourth-grade class has upset some parents:

The HBO-produced feature, directed by French film-maker Guy Deslauriers and starring Djimon Hounsou, describes in graphic detail the voyage of African slaves across the Atlantic to the New World. The brutal conditions aboard slave ships are tackled head-on; suicide and child rape are among the horrors depicted and discussed.

So when a teacher in Chicago's north suburbs showed the film to her fourth-grade students, some parents were not pleased.

"As a parent and father I was destroyed, in the sense that I felt incapacitated in protecting my child," said Patrick Livney, father of nine-year-old Becca, a student at the Greeley School in Winnetka where the film was shown. "The concept of a rape, suicide, depression at the age of 9 years old is a sad commentary," he said, according to CBS.


… after a meeting yesterday, Winnetka School District 36 changed that policy. Now, teachers may only bring in G-rated supplemental materials, unless they seek administrative approval.

We have to agree with the parents here. It seems the very relevant lesson the teacher intended to convey with this film could be overshadowed by the shock of being exposed to such graphic content for the first time (for black and white children alike).


There are plenty of ways to express the horrors of slavery — families being torn apart, abysmal living conditions, and the very fact of human beings being owned — in a way that can get through to elementary school kids without giving them nightmares. Not to mention, popping in a film seems like a shortcut around figuring out how to teach slavery through an age-appropriate and potentially more meaningful lesson plan.

Read more at the Huffington Post.

In other news:  Chris Brown Gets Out of His Stay-Away Order.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. 

Share This Story

Get our newsletter