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‘The Birth of a Nation’ film inspires library lectures

Armie Hammer (from left portrays Samuel Turner, Nate Parker portrays Nat Turner and Jayson Warner Smith portrays Earl Fowler in a scene from "The Birth of a Nation," opening Oct. 7, 2016. | Fox Searchlight Pictures via AP

NEW YORK — Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” isn’t out until October, but some libraries will be teaching about the slave rebellion that it’s based on later this summer.

“The Birth of a Nation: Slavery, Resistance & Abolition” will be offered in libraries, museums and other institutions from Aug. 21 through Oct. 30. Those are the dates when Nat Turner began his bloody slave revolt in 1831 and when it ended, with his capture. He was convicted and hanged days later.

Parker said he hopes the movie will inspire people to challenge injustices worldwide and said the lecture series would help. “This speaker series is a great way to engage local communities in an honest discussion about slavery and its legacy in America,” he said in a statement released Tuesday.

The American Library Association and the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme are teaming up with Fox Searchlight Pictures, which is releasing the film, and BazanED to present the lectures.

Among the libraries that have already signed up for the lectures are public libraries in Chicago and Detroit. In Chicago, the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library is participating in the lecture series, according to Jackie Bazan, president and CEO of BazanEd.

Nate Parker stars as Nat Turner in “The Birth of a Nation.” | FOX SEARCHLIGHT
Nate Parker stars as Nat Turner in “The Birth of a Nation.” | FOX SEARCHLIGHT

“Each individual library commits to hosting a program,” Bazan said. BazanEd produces and provides educational materials such as curriculum guides (free to teachers), often in conjunction with films depicting significant historical content. Previous partnerships included “Selma” and “Race.”

“We provide, for example, video assets that can be downloaded and kept or streamed directly to smart boards in the classrooms, which enables teachers to introduce this history to their students.”

Bazan, who has seen the movie, said the wide-ranging scope of the film necessitated an additional program, one that was broader than the classroom environment.

“There’s no better place to bring the community together to discuss these issues than the local library and college campuses,” where the lecture series will be taking place.

“The lecture series is designed to be deliberately broad to get people to talk about topics such as slavery resistance and abolition. You can’t sum up slavery and all that it was in one neat little package,” Bazan said. “The film is an amazing interpretation of what slavery was. It paints a very vivid picture of what the trade was like. You do not get a lot of films about slavery resistance and the rebellion. The rebellion is considered one of the bloodiest rebellions in American history.”

More CPL locations participating in the lecture/speakers will be announced at a future date.

“The Birth of a Nation” will be released in theaters Oct. 7.

Associated Press; Contributing: Sun-Times staff reporter Miriam Di Nunzio