Let Students See Historical Civil Rights Drama

1963 Civil Rights March

Target: Hugh Taylor, DeKalb County school superintendent

Goal: Lift ban on school trips to see the historical civil rights drama Selma.

The school superintendent for Alabama’s DeKalb County, Hugh Taylor, recently cancelled a trip a high school history club had planned to go see the move Selma, a historical drama about civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Taylor cited concerns about language and racial profanity in justifying his cancellation.

Selma has been widely praised by critics and laymen alike for its depiction of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches, a pivotal moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. Clearly, it would be of educational value to students across the country—a sentiment that was shared by one of DeKalb Country’s high school history clubs, who tried to organize a school trip to see the movie. Superintendent Taylor, however, kept the trip from happening. Parents have raised questions about the real reason that the group was kept from seeing the film, alleging that racial bias may have been a motivating factor and that concerns over language might just have been a convenient excuse.

Books that are commonly taught in public high schools across the country—like Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—include the very same racial profanities that Taylor seems concerned about. Despite that, students still read the book. This film should be treated the same. Sign the petition below to demand that Taylor allow school trips to see Selma.


Dear Superintendent Taylor,

I am writing you today regarding your recent cancellation of a high school history club’s trip to see the civil rights drama Selma. This is an eerie turn of events that has made many suspicious that you are trying to censor and whitewash black history.

You cited concerns about language and “racial profanity” as reasons for your not allowing the trip, saying that teachers should not be put in the position of playing parent if a student became offended by the content of the film. Presumably, however, some of the literature taught by the schools in your district includes explicit language and racial slurs, and yet is still taught to your students.

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for instance, uses an anti-black racial slur 219 times, but is still given an esteemed position in the curricula of high school English classes around the country. Why should this film not be afforded the same privilege, especially when it highlights how wrong such slurs are instead of normalizing their use like Huckleberry Finn does?

Selma tells the story of a vastly important time and struggle in American history. It should be afforded the important consideration it deserves, especially when considering that it is locally relevant to your state. I demand that you let student groups go on school trips to see Selma if they want to. 


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rowland Scherman via Wikimedia Commons

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