The film industry has a long history of drawing inspiration from real-life events to create compelling narratives that resonate with audiences. “Emancipation,” an upcoming movie directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Will Smith, has sparked curiosity and anticipation among moviegoers due to its potential connection to a significant and poignant moment in American history.
With a script by William N. Collage and a direction by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Infinite, What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali), Emancipation is the cruel story of a man named Peter (Smith) who runs away from slavery in the deep south in 1863.
When President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, he freed all slaves. However, the Civil War continued, and slaves in the South would not be officially free until the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865. Some people, like the figure played by Smith in Emancipation, chose to be free on their own.
In this article, we will explore whether “Emancipation” is based on a true story and how it aims to shed light on the harrowing past of slavery in the United States.
Is Emancipation Based on a True Story?
In fact, Emancipation is based on a true story that is both scary and moving. The inspiration for the film came from the real-life story of a slave named Gordon who was called “Whipped Peter” after a picture of his back showed a horrible pattern of crossed scars from being whipped so badly that he had to stay in bed two months.
The picture went around the world and across the United States, like a digital movie today. It quickly became one of the most famous pictures of the time and an important source for the abolitionist movement.
Gordon actually ran away from the John and Bridget Lyons farm in Louisiana in March 1863, just like the movie shows. He was on the run for 10 days, using onions to hide his scent from the dogs that were sent to find him.
Gordon made the dangerous 40-mile trip to join the Union army in Baton Rouge, where he joined the Louisiana Native Guard, a Black unit made up of former slaves.
How Accurate is the Will Smith Emancipation Movie to the True Story?
Since scholars don’t know much about the real man in the “Scourged Back” picture, they can’t say how true to life Emancipation is. Some of the details from the Harper’s Weekly story were used in the movie by director Antoine Fuqua and screenwriter William N. Collage. For example, Peter/Gordon rubbed himself down with onion to hide his smell from the dogs.
Most of Peter’s story in Emancipation, on the other hand, is made up because the history behind the picture is so controversial. Peter’s family, wife, and past are all made up. Fassel, the cruel slave owner played by Ben Foster, is also made up. Also, the Harper’s Weekly story didn’t say anything about Gordon and Peter wrestling an alligator.
Having said that, it is true that President Lincoln freed all slaves in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. However, slaves were not officially free until the 13th Amendment was passed two years later, in 1865. In those two years, as shown in the movie, a lot of people decided to run away to Union territory.
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According to an interview with the Los Angeles Times, director Antoine Fuqua said that the real man in the picture gave him ideas for a story that was based on facts from the time. Fuqua said that Peter was an interesting figure. “The fact that we still tell stories about a man from 1863 who went through hell makes us want to do so.” It’s a movie about family. It has to do with hope. It’s about a person who is inspiring and kind.”