Black business leaders across an increasing number of U.S. cities are joining the burgeoning campaign to bring the Golden Globe-winning film “SELMA,” to students for free.

“This initiative is unprecedented in African-American history. Never before has a    group of Black leaders donated the funds to enable students across the country to    view a film created by a Black director for free,” said Henry Louis Gates, professor of African American Studies at Harvard, in a statement.

Funds were recently established in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, bringing the    number of participating cities to 13, and several others are expected to be announced this week.

The efforts are being fueled by the success of a program in New York City, in    which 27 African-American business leaders created a fund for 27,000 of the city’s  seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grade students to gain free admission to the movie. Due  to the overwhelming demand, the New York City initiative sold out in the very first weekend and was expanded to 75,000 tickets.

Leaders of the movement said they felt compelled to share the inspiring, historical  movie with the younger generation. “SELMA” chronicles a critical moment in the   Civil Rights Movement–the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led other activists in a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting   rights for African Americans. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.,     during which demonstrators risked their very lives, culminated in President Johnson   signing the monumental Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The chance to share a film, which has so poignantly captured a pivotal moment in our history, has struck a deep chord within the African-American business community and resonated so profoundly across the country that a simple idea has become a    national movement,” said Tony Coles, former CEO, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, in a      statement. “We are gratified that generous donors across the country see the        opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our youth.”

Added Frederick O. Terrell, vice chairman, Credit Suisse, “I think the overwhelming  response to our ‘SELMA’ initiative across the country has been a reminder to all of us of the power of a simple idea and the collective power of communities. Buying  tickets for our children to see this wonderful film is an opportunity for greater     awareness and education.”

In most of the cities, seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students need only present a  current student ID or report card at the box office of any participating theater to    receive free admission while tickets last.

Toni Cook Bush and DeDe Lea, executives at News Corp. and Viacom, respectively, are leading the fundraising efforts in Washington, D.C.

“It’s an honor to contribute to such a worthwhile cause,” said Bush. “I am certain   that our students in Washington will find hope and encouragement in film and will leave the theater better for it.”

To help get the word out about the program, tweet using the hashtag:              #SelmaForStudents.

For a list of participating theaters in select cities offering free admission to students   during this program and for information on group sales, visit:

To learn more about the film, go to: