13th Documentary Discussion Questions

Instructor: Laura McNeice

Laura has a masters in Curriculum and Instruction in Social Studies Education and has been teaching for 7 years in North Carolina.

These questions will help students identify and examine key facts and details from the Academy Award nominated documentary by Ava Duvernay, '13th'. It shows the history of oppression against the African American community since the introduction of the 13th amendment in 1865.

13th: A Documentary

In this 2016 thought-provoking documentary by filmmaker Ava Duvernay, the US prison population and the criminalization of the African American community is put under the microscope as information is presented in the form of historic footage and images, academic research, and interviews with various experts across multiple fields. Use the following questions to help your students understand important aspects of the film.

Questions about Racism and the South:

  • What does the 13th amendment state?
  • What actions were taken in the South during Reconstruction to deal with the growing freed slave population?
  • List two examples of 'Negro Criminality'.
  • How did Birth of a Nation lead to a new era of terrorism against African Americans? What was the response?

Questions about the 1960s and a Time for Change:

  • How were the civil rights movement and the activists portrayed?
  • What was increasing along side the civil rights movement?
  • How did prisons change in 1970? What was the prison population in 1970?

Questions about Increasing the Racial Divide:

  • What was the 'War on Crime' really about?
  • How was the 'War on Drugs' used to reinforce racism?
  • How did the government use crack as a way to target minority and poor communities?
  • How did Lee Atwater describe the 'Southern Strategy'?
  • How were black men over represented in the media coverage of crime?
  • What was a super-predator and how did it relate to African American communities?
  • How was the story of Willie Horton used by the media and government?
  • How did the democrats change their policies to reflect the tough on crime stance?
  • What are mandatory minimums and why are they a problem?
  • How did the 1994 Federal Crime Bill change the face of the prison system?
  • What was the prison population in 2000?

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