Analysis of the Movie 13th

156 views 8 pages ~ 2062 words
Get a Custom Essay Writer Just For You!

Experts in this subject field are ready to write an original essay following your instructions to the dot!

Hire a Writer

The purpose of this paper is to discuss and analyze the movie 13th. In this movie activist examine African American life in the USA. Several white and African American activists will present historical facts to support their arguments. Some of the theorist that will be examined will center on theories that were studied through this semester (DuVernay). The movie provides the background of mass incarceration in the United States among the members of African Americans. Ava DuVernay directs the documentary where it highlights the history of the country regarding slavery. Precisely, the nation abolished slavery in the nineteenth century after the enactment of the 13th Amendment in the Constitution of the United States. Subsequently, African Americans were liberated. Nonetheless, a clause in the Amendment facilitates incarceration of the African Americans as form of punishment for crime. In this regard, the provision acted as the basis for “13th”. The documentary attempts to provide a direct link since the abolition of slavery to the contemporary level of mass incarceration from 2015. The movie also uses a wide range of sources and the US history from activist perspective, historical circles, legal, and social justice to enhance the argument (DuVernay). Moreover, through the insights of prominent people, Such as Michelle Alexander, and Civil Rights activist integrated with hip-hop music, newsreel, and historical footage, the movie describes how the United States has turned out to be a nation with the largest number of incarcerated population across the globe.

One of the main themes of the movie “13th” is imprisonment of African Americans. It demonstrates through history how the Whites people have consistently devised ways to dominate African Americans. The movie did not support either the Democrats or Republicans, but instead explains how both political parties participated in harming and marginalizing black persons in the United States via their political policy and rhetoric. Starting with the tenure of Richard Nixon as the US Leader in the 1970s, the movie illustrates how the rhetoric dubbed the “tough on crime” became law in the 90’s and 80’s (DuVernay). Moreover, another policy known as “War on Drugs” was introduced by Ronald Reagan while in the early 1990’s crime bill was introduced by President Bill Clinton that triggered the commencement of mass incarceration, compelling much black population to criminal justice system at alarmingly high levels.

The movie 13th opposes the whitewashing of particular events in the history of US especially the slavery abolition, the Voting Rights Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1865, 1965, and 1964 respectively. On the contrary, it illustrates how the system either through corporations or government re-designs itself to discover new processes to ensure that African Americans in the United States are perceived as lesser citizens (Wacquant 13). The review of the coded speech during the times of “War on Drugs” and “tough on crime” showcases the ways African American populations are the anticipated targets of these policies or rhetoric. It also highlights how the African American population has served as scapegoat for centuries.

The film claims that the US criminal justice system normally works as a strategy to manage brown and black people hence it works as another kind of slavery. The movie examines the interconnection of justice, race, and mass incarceration in the US (DuVernay). Importantly, its title is adopted from the 13th amendment, which banned slavery except as sentence for a crime (DuVernay). The film also highlights that slavery has been promoted in practices in American society since the termination of the Civil War via operations such as criminalizing traits and empowering police to detain deprived freedmen and compel them to provide forced labor through the convict leasing. Likewise, it describes how African Americans suffer due to Jim Crow, lynching, and disenfranchisement (DuVernay). It also suggests that policy makers set legislation on drugs that have significant effects on minority societies because they lead to mass incarceration in the US. The film also explores the industrial-prison complex and the prevalent industrial-detention complex explaining the amount of money acquired by companies through such incarcerations (DuVernay).

It highlights that since the 1970s to the current period, mass incarceration has increased even though the crime rate has decreased over the same period. In fact, the private contractors of prison are now used to meet the demand through constant detainment and imprisonment (DuVernay). Additionally, they establish an independent organization with economic enticements to outlaw petty actions and prolong sentences aiming to ensure that prisons are occupied. Businesspersons and politicians in the rural areas promote the establishment of more prisons in order to deliver manual jobs hence they are motivated to sustain fully occupied prisons (DuVernay). The mass incarceration of people has seriously affected the African Americans generations, their children and families.

The movie demonstrates that African Americans have transited from the era of slavery to the times of mass incarceration. The government institutions have consecutively operated to control and confine African Americans for a long period in the United States. For instance, institutions such as slavery, Jim Crow, Ghetto, and Hyper ghetto have been used as mechanisms for a labor extraction and social ostracization. Based on Wacquant arguments, the United States is in the fourth phase of formulating historical path via mass incarceration (Wacquant 15).

The first phase is referred to as chattel slavery, which is designed on plantation economic and racial segregation to the Civil War. Secondly, the Jim Crow mechanism officially executed segregation and discrimination that supported mainly agrarian population of the south from the end of Reconstruction to the time of Civil Rights revolution, which occupied a full century. Thirdly, the ghetto system demonstrates the mechanism for containing the slaves’ descendants in the Northern industrial capitals. It corresponded to the proletarianization and urbanization of African Americans from the era of Great Migrations which took place between 1914 to the 1960s (Wacquant 13). The fourth institution signifies new formal system established by the descendants of the poor ghetto with which it turned out to be conjoined by an interconnected linkage of functional surrogacy and structural symbiosis. It implies that mass incarceration and slavery are genealogically interlinked.

The 13th movie describes the deep-rooted origins of racial discrimination in the US. Currently, most of the African Americans are suffering in jail. More importantly, the African Americans are disproportionally imprisoned for the past four decades. In this regard, the criminal justice system in the United States continues to carry the burden of social stigma among the slaves’ descendants. The ghetto, Jim Crow, and slavery institutions are characterized by a long period of caste division and labor extraction. In fact, they are explained as race establishing institutions.

Educational theories

Mammie and Kenneth Clark discovered that racial segregation negatively affected the self-images of African American children. They testified in the Supreme Court in the case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Whitehead 9). Their testimony helped in the desegregation of public schools in America. When black kids were asked to select the most liked drawings between white and black children, they favored white drawings and doll. The findings of children’s responses demonstrated that they viewed white as pretty and good while black was viewed as ugly and bad. A theory by Vygotsky highlights the concept that possibility for cognitive development is dependent on the “zone of proximal development”. Such levels are achieved when kids participate in social behaviors and complete growth of the ZPD is dependent of social interaction (Whitehead 15). Therefore, racial discrimination in school forces African American children to engage in antisocial behaviors.

Bronfenbrenner’s theory highlight that an environment plays a key role in the development of a kid. Therefore, an environment based on discrimination affects the proper growth of a child which can lead to antisocial traits (Whitehead 33). The theory by William Stern provided human intelligence or intelligence quotient suggested that people are normally grouped based on aberrations, norms, and types. Maslow’s theory explains the concept of human motivation which includes self-actualization, esteem, love, safety, and physiological needs. Kohlberg’s theory on moral development suggests that morality begins from early childhood and can be influenced by a number of issues. Therefore, it is essential for the society to teach good characters in childhood because they influence how they behaviors in the future. Alfred Binet developed IQ tests which were analyzed by subdividing the chronological age from mental age (Whitehead 49).

John Dewey suggested that teachers should interact with students. They must learn a world outside since most students learn via hand-on strategy. Therefore, it is essential to introduce pragmatic approach in teaching. Critical thinkers argue that all children deserve to have a competent education. According to William James’s theory, student teaching must accompany class work (Whitehead 17). In addition, the importance of a concept is dependent upon its effectiveness in the real world instead of complete truth. Edward Thorndike illustrated that measurement and assessment are critical in evaluation. Thorndike theory illustrates that learning is a product of relationships establishing between responses and stimuli. Bloom’s theory highlights the need for an education that pays close attention to understanding, learning, and thinking. B.F Skinner’s theory implies that behavior is based on its consequences. In this regard, punishments or reinforcements will determine if a behavior will take place in the learning process (Whitehead 21). Therefore, teachers should use the reward system in order to attain effective learning

How mass incarceration affected people

Incarceration has a wide range of negative impacts on the affected persons. Precisely, while in prison, majority of inmates engage in risk sexual behaviors which increases the risk of HIV while in prison (DuVernay). On the other hand, their partners who are out of prison engage in commercial sex, concurrent relationships, and multiple sexual relationships. Statistics highlights that the African Americans population accounts for almost 50 percent of all people infected with AIDS (PLWA) in the country although their total population is below 13 percent. Therefore, high rates of incarceration of African Americans interrupt the sexual networks in the community leading to a higher spread rate of HIV.

Who did it affect and what broke families

Incarceration leads to break of families because it creates long-term separations. For instance, a partner who is not imprisoned lacks the social support of the jailed partner. Subsequently, it may lead to the search for other social partners (Pager 11). Empirical evidence has noted that when a male partner is incarcerated, a female partner is more likely to participate in simultaneous sexual relationships (DuVernay). In this way, it contributes to breakdown of families and may increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS.

Did the movie impress me why or why not?

The 13th movie is very impressive because it highlights the origin of the mass incarceration among members of African Americans. It highlights the plights of this population in the wake of new form of slavery. Since the slavery abolition in the 19th century, the country has metamorphosed into a modern slavery where significant portion of African Americans are incarcerated. The 13th amendment law introduced a section which encouraged arrests and imprisonment of people. Therefore, the movie serves to create awareness on the need to introduce programs that would reduce the rate of incarceration among African Americans.


The movie 13th highlights the problem of mass incarceration among African Americans in the United States. The history of the US has been characterized by a long period of racial discrimination. Precisely, the people of color have suffered owing to unfair laws and denial of fundamental rights. Since the abolition of slavery in the 19th century following the enactment of 13th amendment, the country has transformed into modern form of slavery through mass incarceration. The theory of Mammie and Kenneth demonstrated the racial segregation negatively affected the proper learning and development of students. Other theories have indicated that provision of proper learning environment will increase the change for all children to acquire the best education irrespective of their race. Therefore, mass incarceration of the African Americans is a product of modern slavery. It also represents racial inequality in the US criminal justice structure.

Work cited

DuVernay, Ava. "13TH | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix." Youtube, 2017,

Pager, Devah. Marked: Race, crime, and finding work in an era of mass incarceration. University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Wacquant, Loic. "From slavery to mass incarceration." New left review 13 (2002).

Whitehead, Jack. The Growth of Educational Knowledge: Creating You Own Living Educational Theories. Hyde Publications, 1993.

August 14, 2023

Law Sociology


Race and Ethnicity

Number of pages


Number of words




This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Eliminate the stress of Research and Writing!

Hire one of our experts to create a completely original paper even in 3 hours!

Hire a Pro