Entertainment

McQueen wants 'Slave' in schools

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Sunday, February 16, 2014    

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OSCAR-nominated film-maker Steve McQueen is on a campaign to get the book that inspired his movie, 12 Years a Slave, into British schools.

The movie is inspired by the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery in the American south.

Last week, in an e-mail response to the Sunday Observer McQueen -- who was born in London to Grenadian parents -- spoke about his educational initiative which he described as "very important".

"First and foremost, I'm working with certain institutions and people of influence to get the book into schools in the UK, and also the US. This is the least we could do for Solomon's courage," he said.

Released last year, 12 Years a Slave is based on Northup's autobiography of the same name. Directed by McQueen, it won The Best Director award from the New York Film Critics Circle, and a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.

It has received nine nominations at the Academy Awards next month including Best Picture and Best Director.

In an interview with the News America publication last month, McQueen said he learned little about slavery during his time in the British school system.

He credits his West Indian heritage for making him aware of slavery which helped drive British commerce during the 17th and 18th centuries.

"My trajectory, as such, of being introduced to slavery was fairly immediate, because my parents were from the West Indies," he said. "And, you know, at school there was reference to slavery, but not much. So it's one of those things which I found out through my parents and obviously travelling back to the West Indies."

The 44-year-old McQueen believes with the United Kingdom's demographics becoming more diverse in the last 20 years, it is appropriate for students to learn more about the trade.

"People are mixing more, and a lot of barriers between ethnic groups have evaporated," he said.

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