American Promise is a documentary on Netflix that followed the educational journey of two African American boys. The documentary spanned 13 years of their lives while they attended the prestigious Dalton Prep School in New York City and later when one was forced into public high school. Joe Brewster and Michéle Stephenson, decided to document their son, Idris and his best friend, Seun’s educational journey from kindergarten through high school graduation. The purpose of both sets of parents was to enroll their African American sons into Dalton in order to hopefully provide a better educational outcome.
In order to be accepted into the prestigious school, both boys were tested and clearly scored above average. Even though they were accepted into Dalton, the parents were very aware that the school was not very diverse. The administration explained that their goal was to build diversity. However, in the movie they stated that the school was made up of less than 20 percent minorities. As the boys got older, they began to realize how different they really because of their race. At one point, Idris questions his parents by saying that if he were white, he’d have an easier time.
In middle school, Seun was diagnosed with dyslexia and began to struggle in school. Eventually his parents reluctantly transferred him to a public high school in New York City. Consequently, Idris also began to struggle in middle school as well. His parents continued to work with him at night on his homework and they decided to keep him enrolled at Dalton. While in high school, Idris was diagnosed with ADHD and began to take medication to counter the affects ADHD had on his concentration. At the same time, Seun’s Mother was diagnosed with cancer and underwent Chemo Therapy. During that time, Seun found his younger brother dead in their home from an accident. The tragic situation put Seun in a downward spiral. As a result, he didn’t attend school for a period of time and fell behind in his class work. His advisors worked desperately hard to help him succeed and graduate with his class.
The movie ends with both boys attending college. The main message is that even though black parents set out to try and end the racial achievement gap by sending their sons to prestigious white institutions, the struggles are still there. Racism from their peers and the administration is clearly evident. Both parents wanted a better education for their sons so they would have better opportunities in adulthood. However, the boys and the parents found the struggle to be very complicated in regards to race, class, and opportunity (pbs.org, 2014).
Pbs.org. (2014, February 3). Synopsis. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/pov/americanpromise/
Youtube.com. (2013, August 20). American Promise Official Trailer 1. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfA939LmPbU