Synopsis: The film begins with the idea that 25 percent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world's population. "13th" charts the explosive growth in America's prison population; in 1970, there were about 200,000 prisoners; today, the prison population is more than 2 million. The documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith's film "The Birth of a Nation"; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan's declaration of the war on drugs and much more.
Director(s): Ava DuVernay
Production: Netflix
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 28 wins & 43 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
100 min

So let's look at the statistics.

The United States is home

to 5% of the world's population...

but 25% of the world's prisoners.

Think about that.

A little country with 5%

of the world's population

having 25% of the world's prisoners?

One out of four?

One out of four human beings

with their hands on bars, shackled,

in the world are locked up here,

in the land of the free.

We had a prison population of 300,000

in 1972.

Today, we have a prison population

of 2.3 million.

The United States now has the highest rate

of incarceration in the world.

So, you see, now suddenly

they're in an awakening that,

"Oh, perhaps we need to downsize

our prison system.

It's gotten too expensive.

It's gotten out of hand."

Um, but the very folks

who often express so much concern,

uh, about the cost

and the expanse of the system

are often very unwilling

to talk in any serious way

about remedying the harm

that has been done.

History is not just

stuff that happens by accident.

We are the products of the history

that our ancestors chose, if we're white.

If we are black, we are products

of the history that our ancestors

most likely did not choose.

Yet here we all are together,

the products of that set of choices.

And we have to understand that

in order to escape from it.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution

makes it unconstitutional

for someone to be held as a slave.

In other words, it grants freedom...

to all Americans.

There are exceptions, including criminals.

There's a clause, a loophole.

If you have that

in the structure,

in this constitutional language,

then it's there to be used as a tool

for whichever purposes

one wants to use it.

One of the things

to bear in mind is that

when we think about slavery,

it was an economic system.

And the demise of slavery

at the end of the Civil War

left the Southern economy in tatters.

Uh, and so this presented a big question.

There are four million people

who were formerly property,

and they were formerly

kind of the integral part

of the economic production system

in the South.

And now those people are free.

And so what do you do with these people?

How do you rebuild your economy?

The 13th Amendment loophole

was immediately exploited.

After the Civil War,

African Americans were arrested en masse.

It was our nation's first prison boom.

You were basically a slave again.

The 13th Amendment says that

"Except for criminals,

everybody else is free."

Well, now if you're criminalized,

that doesn't apply to you.

They were arrested

for extremely minor crimes,

like loitering or vagrancy.

And they had to provide labor

to rebuild the economy

of the South after the Civil War.

What you got after that

was a rapid transition

to a kind of mythology

of black criminality.

Go back and, you know, read the rhetoric

that people used then.

They would say that the Negro

was out of control,

that there's a threat of violence

to white women.

So the same sort of image

that we had of Uncle Remus

and these genial, kind of, black figures

was replaced by this rapacious,

uh, menacing, Negro male evil

that had to be banished.

Birth of a Nation was

just a profoundly important

cultural event.

It's the first major blockbuster film,

hailed for both its artistic achievement

and for its political commentary.

And when it was released,

it had this rapturous response.

You know, there were lines everywhere

that it was being shown.

Birth of a Nation confirmed the story

that many whites wanted to tell

about the Civil War and its aftermath.

To erase defeat and to take out of it

Rate this script:(3.87 / 15 votes)

Spencer Averick

Spencer Averick is an American film editor and producer. Best known for his work an editor on critically acclaimed films Middle of Nowhere (2012), Selma (2014) and for producing 2016 acclaimed documentary 13th for which he received Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature nominations at 89th Academy Awards, that he shared with director Ava DuVernay and co-producer Howard Barish. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "13th" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 2 Dec. 2021. <https://www.scripts.com/script/13th_1553>.

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