Network Media

American Promise

Funded by: The Ford Foundation, Independent Television Service (ITVS), Jerome Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, National Black Programming Consortium, New York State Council on the Arts, Open Society Foundations, POV, San Francisco Film Society, Sundance Documentary Fund, The Fledgling Fund, Tribeca Gucci Documentary Fund

In 1999, filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson turned cameras on two families – including their own – as they enrolled their sons at a prestigious prep school in hopes that it would set their son on a path to success. Thirteen years later, the result is a feature-length documentary, American Promise, which provides a rare look into the lives of two middle class black families as they wrestle with the same questions all parents face as they navigate the ups and downs of race, class, parenthood and education.

Through a strategy targeting educators, parents and students, the film’s campaign has raised awareness of issues surrounding black male achievement. The film has been widely screened in schools, conferences and communities, covered multiple times by national outlets, and spurred the creation of 46 “Promise Clubs” run by parents. The film has been screened on Capitol Hill and at the UN, and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans supported the campaign’s Black Male Achievement Week.

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This Ford Foundation received the Woody A. Wickham Award for at the 2014 Media Impact Festival for its support of this film. Find out more about the film’s funding and impact in its full festival case study.

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