Lean on Me, the biographical drama based on the story of the tough, bullhorn and bat toting, radical and no-nonsense principal Joe Louis Clark was released in 1989. Clark, played by Morgan Freeman, came on board when Eastside High, an inner-city school in Paterson, New Jersey was at risk of being taken over by the state if basic skills test scores did not improve.
Clark, to combat the culture of an educational institution riddled with drugs and crime, expelled over 300 students including those who used/sold drugs or caused trouble in school and those who were frequently absent or tardy. Clark’s methods did result in slightly higher scores, but the impact was not long lasting as the school was acquired by the state one year after his departure.
The film snagged two NAACP Image Awards; one for Outstanding Motion Picture, while Morgan Freeman took home Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture for his portrayal of Clark. Fun Fact: Notable alumni include rapper Fetty Wap and WNBA player Essence Carson.