September 25, 2017, will mark a full 60 years since the Little Rock Nine—a group of nine Black high school students—defied state orders and racist mobs to desegregate the Arkansas capital’s Central High School. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s (“Queen Sugar”) distribution network, Array, commemorates this anniversary with the release of “Teach Us All,” a new documentary that explores the current realities of public school segregation.
“It was never intended [that] we be treated as equals,” says Little Rock Nine member Elizabeth Eckford in the film’s first trailer (above), which debuted online yesterday (September 6). She’s specifically speaking to the racist abuse and bias she encountered both inside and outside the school. But “Teach Us All” carries this premise—that U.S. public education systems were never built to offer students of color the same opportunities as White ones—into the present.
First time feature film director Sonia Lowman connects ongoing issues like high teacher turnover, funding disparities between poor and affluent districts and student criminalization with contemporary school segregation along race lines. It can have dire consequences: predominantly White school districts can effectively freeze out Black and Brown students, concentrating them in under-resourced schools at higher rates than were seen before the desegregation efforts of the last century. Meanwhile, state and national administrators use barometers like standardized test scores to justify denying those schools equal support. An article published by The Nation yesterday argues that the Department of Justice, despite some efforts under former President Barack Obama, has also largely allowed states and counties the freedom to violate federal law by upholding race-based redistricting.
“Teach Us All” debuts September 25 on Netflix. This streaming release is tied to a screening tour in more than a dozen cities, including Austin, Memphis and Little Rock.
Watch the trailer above, and visit ArrayNow.com to find a screening near you.