Screening, discussion of documentary set for Sept. 19 in honor of Constitution Day

September 18, 2017 | Events, UToday, Arts and Letters
By Staff

“13th,” a documentary about the 13th Amendment and mass incarceration, will be shown Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. in Snyder Memorial Building Room 3066.

The 2016 film directed by Ava DuVernay focuses on the 13th Amendment, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery — unless as a punishment for a crime.

Sponsored by the UT programs in Law and Social Thought and Disability Studies, the event is in recognition of Constitution Day, which is officially Sept. 17.

“We chose the documentary ‘13th’ as it shows that while our written Constitution is worthy of great praise, as citizens, we should also always regard it with a spirit of inquiry and even skepticism,” Dr. Renee Heberle, UT professor of political science, said.

“The 13th Amendment enshrines slavery, albeit for those duly convicted of crimes, in our Constitution. This documentary brings our attention to the historical trajectory in the United States with respect to racial oppression, from slavery to sharecropping and Jim Crow to the contemporary situation of mass incarceration and forced labor in correctional institutions, which can be related to the fact of the 13th Amendment, ratified just after the Civil War ended chattel slavery.”

The 100-minute film was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature and won an Emmy Award for outstanding documentary or nonfiction special.

Heberle and Dr. Liat Ben-Moshe, UT assistant professor of disability studies, will lead a discussion after the screening.

Heberle, who is affiliated with the UT Women’s and Gender Studies Department, is co-director of the Program in Law and Social Thought and coordinator of the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Project, which allows University students to take a course inside a prison alongside incarcerated people.

Ben-Moshe is working on a book titled “Politics of (En)Closure” that details movements to abolish prisons and deinstitutionalization of mental and intellectual health institutions.

“We hope to inspire discussion about issues of constitutional justice and how and whom we punish,” Heberle said.

Refreshments will be served at the free, public event.

For more information, contact Heberle at

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