The gravity and sincerity expressed in Steve McQueen’s '12 Years a Slave' will help to educate children in America as the National School Boards Association has made it mandatory that U.S. public high schools add it to their curriculum in connection with talkshow host and spokesperson, Montel Williams.

12 Years a Slave Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael FassbenderChiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave

“When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool,” Williams said in a statement. “This film uniquely highlights a shameful period in American history, and in doing so will evoke in students a desire to not repeat the evils of the past while inspiring them to dream big of a better and brighter future.”

The film tells the true story of Solomon Northrup, played by Oscar-nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was man kidnapped from his free life and trapped into slavery. As he moves from plantation to plantation, Northrup encounters many despicable characters, none more so than Edwin Epps – masterfully portrayed by Michael Fassbender.

Despite not winning as many awards as it perhaps should, 12 Years a Slave has enjoyed a fairly fruitful awards season. It was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture and received nine Academy Award nominations, det to be handed out this Sunday. Ejiofor also won the BAFTA for Best Actor, while the film took the Best Film award, too.

Watch the 12 Years a Slave trailer:

Last year’s best Picture favourite, 'Lincoln', has also found its way into schools. Copies of the movie will be distributed for free to all middle and high schools in the United States, both public and private, as soon as it was made available on DVD. The school version of the film included "educator's guide" to help teachers develop lesson plans and engage students in discussion about Abraham Lincoln and that time period.