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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that And the Children Shall Lead provides a great way to open discussion with kids about racial issues. This film is both ideal for older kids and direct enough to hold teens' attention and important enough to be good family viewing.
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What's the story?
AND THE CHILDREN SHALL LEAD starts in 1964 in sleepy Catesville, Miss. Jenny, the daughter of the white sheriff, is good friends with Rachel, granddaughter of Miss Annie, the sheriff's black housekeeper. As a house painter, Rachel's father, William (Danny Glover), buys his supplies from the father of white twins Floyd and Lloyd, the constant companions of Jenny, Rachel, and Rachel's cousin and sister. Despite these close ties, all of them, like the people around them, routinely observe the longstanding rules of racial segregation -- until the civil rights movement of the mid-'60s begins to touch them. When a busload of civil rights workers, led by Glenn (LeVar Burton), comes to town to register voters, everyone -- including the children -- has to decide where they stand on the pressing issue of civil rights.
Is it any good?
What makes this movie so special is its careful selection of day-to-day incidents in the lives of a handful of Southerners, both black and white. Combine that with a convincing script, unaffected child actors, and a supporting ensemble of skilled stars, and the result is an excellent film. The shocking era of "Whites Only" restrooms and drinking fountains becomes immediate as characters face real dilemmas. Rachel and her sister Paulette, in pressing need, find an "Out of Order" sign blocking their use of a "Colored" restroom. This simple scene may rattle youngsters today, but will register sharply with their sense of justice. The effect multiplies when the twins Lloyd and Floyd turn on their black friend.
Direct and sensitive, And the Children Shall Lead lets us know the people of Catesville and helps us understand what each feels as the stable structure of their world, however inequitable, begins to change. If the mild ending is a bit of a letdown, it nevertheless rings true, as does so much of this picture, by personalizing a portrait of America's arduous struggles to break free of racism.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what they would do if faced with the same situation confronted by the kids in And the Children Shall Lead. Can you think of current examples that show how race still affects the way people are treated?
How is their school and are their friendships different today than they were in the 1960s?
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