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SPLC marks 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act by making documentary available to civic, student groups

The Teaching Tolerance film encourages voting and civic engagement by recounting the dramatic story of the students and teachers who braved intimidation, violence and arrest during the campaign for equality in Selma.

The SPLC is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by making its new documentary film, Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot, available for community screenings by civic and student groups across the country.

The film, which tells the true story of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march, can be ordered free of charge for events such as voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote efforts and community screenings. Supplemental materials, including a community screening guide and a trailer, are also available.

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965.

“Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot shows that each of us has the ability to spark social change,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen, executive producer of the documentary. “We believe it can be a powerful tool for community and student groups hoping to inspire people to vote and take action to improve their communities and our nation. That’s why we’re making the film available to groups nationwide.”

The film tells the important story of the forgotten heroes of the fight for voting rights – the courageous students and teachers in Selma who stood up against injustice despite facing intimidation, violence and arrest. It’s narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer.

The SPLC is also hosting screenings in Montgomery, Selma, Atlanta and New Orleans on Aug 6; and in Miami on Aug. 8. A screening was held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on July 30.

The documentary by the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project is designed not only to teach lessons about the civil rights movement but to encourage voting and civic activism. Only about six in 10 eligible voters went to the polls in the last presidential election. That means approximately 90 million voters did not cast ballots. Two years later, voter turnout in the mid-term elections dropped to a 72-year low.

The SPLC has already distributed nearly 35,000 copies of the 40-minute documentary and its teaching kit – free of charge – to educators nationwide. It was released just before the March 7 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day Alabama state troopers brutally beat civil rights marchers in Selma as they attempted to embark to Montgomery.

Teachers can order the film, intended for grades six and up, here.

The film is the eighth classroom documentary produced by Teaching Tolerance. Four previous films have been nominated for Academy Awards, and two – A Time for Justice and Mighty Times: The Children’s March – have won the Oscar® in the short documentary category.