Updated 1:15pm EST
12 Years a Slave will be taught in American public high schools after it is distributed in September, the National School Boards Association has announced.
The Oscar-nominated movie will be sent to public high schools across the United States, according to the federation of schools boards, which is partnering with New Regency, Penguin Books, and the film’s producers to distribute the film, along with the original 1853 memoir that inspired the movie and a study guide.
Individual school districts will decide whether or not to incorporate it in their curricula.
“This gives high school teachers a lot of options, so they can decide how they can fit it in with the curricula they’re teaching,” Tom Gentzel, executive director of the NSBA, told TIME. He added that individual school districts will decide whether to teach the film once they have it. “[Slavery] is an important topic, and it’s an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Television personality Montel Williams is funding the distribution of the film.
The film’s director, Steve McQueen, has spoken about his desire to have the film and its source material be part of education for young students around the world.
“Since first reading ’12 Years a Slave’ it has been my dream that this book be taught in schools,” said McQueen.
12 Years a Slave follows Solomon Northup, a free black man living in upstate New York as he is abducted and sold into slavery.
Here’s Steve McQueen talking about his vision for the film:
This story has been updated to include remarks by NSBA executive director Tom Gentzel.