Emancipation (2022) | Transcript

A runaway slave forges through the swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey to escape plantation owners that nearly killed him.
Emancipation (2022)

Inspired by the gripping true story of a man who would do anything for his family—and for freedom. When Peter, an enslaved man, risks his life to escape and return to his family, he embarks on a perilous journey of love and endurance.

* * *

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed enslaved people in rebellious states to be free.

In Louisiana alone, 350,000 enslaved people faced a choice: remain in bondage and wait for the Union army to liberate them…

… or take freedom for themselves.

Based on a true story.

EMANCIPATION

[birds chirping]

[insects buzzing]

[horse whinnies]

[overseer] That’s right. Move it along. Come on. Gather ’em up.

[cotton fieldworkers coughing]

[grunting]

[overseer 2] Hyah.

[overseer 3] Hurry up now.

[crows cawing]

“Give thanks to God, for he is good… His love endures forever.”

“The Lord is with me. I will not be afraid… What can a mere man do to me?”

“The Lord is my helper… I will look in triumph at my enemies.”

“The Lord is with me… He is my strength… and my defense… He has become my salvation.”

[overseers shouting]

[dog barking]

“The Lord is God.”

“He will shine upon those who trust in him.”

[in Haitian Creole] You are the last drop of water… in my mouth.

[breathes deeply]

You are the sun that warms me in the morning.

[door creaks, opens]

[in English] No. [whimpers]

Come on, boy. Let’s go.

[stammering] Peter. [breathing heavily]

[child crying]

[Peter] Stay together.

I said now, boy.

Do not touch me. I will walk.

[grunts]

What the hell? [grunting]

Boy, you’ll get… Come on.

Get out of there.

Papa!

[straining]

Get back, boy!

[child grunts]

Come on. Damn it, let go.

Help! Come on! [grunts]

[all grunting]

[henchman] Get here, boy.

[panting, grunts]

[all grunting, straining]

[Peter’s partner] Peter!

Hey. Get… Get back.

[bone crunches]

[screaming] Damn animal bit me!

Hey! Hey!

[yells]

No, no, no!

[children crying] Papa.

That’s enough.

[Peter] No!

[Peter’s partner] Captain Lyons. Please, sir.

[children crying]

[Peter panting]

I will walk.

[pants]

[child crying] Please don’t fight.

[thumps]

[Peter grunts]

Peter! [crying]

No!

[henchman 2] Come on.

[overseers grunting]

[Peter’s partner] Oh, Peter. [cries]

[children crying]

[henchman 3] Got him in. Hyah.

[henchman 2] Move over.

You get back to work. All of you.

[overseer] All right now. Get on with your work.

[crying]

[exhales sharply]

You tell General Beall, should he impress any more of my property, I will take it up with Jefferson Davis himself. Gonna ruin my business, this taxation. The n*gger’s my best blacksmith.

[rider] Hyah!

[whip cracks]

[child] Papa, come back!

Stay together. Stay together.

[children crying]

Papa! Papa!

Scipion!

Get back here, boy.

Papa! [grunts, cries]

Get back! Get back here.

[Peter’s partner] Scipion! Scipion!

I will come back to you!

Papa! [wailing]

[cries] Papa!

I will come back to you!

[overseer] Check your boy. Control him.

[Scipion crying] Papa!

[cannon fires]

[enslaved person crying, breathing heavily]

[overseer] Go… Go back to your work! Go back to your work!

[cannon fires]

[coughing]

[workers coughing]

[workers grunting]

[sergeant] Keep it moving. Move.

Everybody out!

[dog growling, barking]

Eyes down. Eyes down.

[cannon fires]

[workers coughing]

[horse whinnies]

[shovels clanging]

Man said, “Eyes down.” Down. Keep ’em there.

[overseer] Come on now, don’t slack. You hear?

[sergeant] Move!

[soldier] Move.

[overseer 2] Get away from him.

[chains clanging]

Get away from him, I said.

[overseers shouting indistinctly]

[overseer 4] That’s right, keep it spinning.

[overseer 5] Get it all out.

[sergeant] Let’s go! Keep moving!

[soldier] Hurry up.

Eyes down, boy. Come on. Go!

[soldier] Don’t make me yell again.

[overseer 5] We got a runner.

[supervisor] Hyah! Come on.

[overseer 6] Come on! Get to work!

[cannon fires]

[priest] The Bible says, “Slaves, be obedient to your masters.

Not with eye-service or men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil”…

[cannon fires]

…”for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

[workers grunting, panting]

[supervisors shouting]

[dog barks, growls]

[sidekick] Good dog. Get that scent.

What the hell are you doing?

[worker grunts]

[sidekick] You stop when I say stop.

[gunshot]

[worker groans]

You, get him outta here.

[dog barking]

Inside! All you!

[soldier] Keep moving, n*gger.

[sergeant] Let’s go, y’all.

[cannon fires]

[chains clanging]

Let’s go.

[soldier] I wanna see full scoops. I wanna see a full shovelful.

The railroad ain’t gonna build itself.

[worker grunting, panting]

[soldier] What’s the matter?

Big ape like you can’t carry it? Huh? Come on, boy.

[screams]

[worker grunts, yelps]

[panting, grunts]

Move, boy. Move!

What are you doing, boy?

This man needs help.

[sergeant] You hard of hearing?

I say when someone needs help.

[worker screaming]

[sergeant sighs]

[overseer] Come on now. Get about it. Get back to work over there.

You a cold one, ain’t ya?

[sidekick 2] Easy. Come on.

Where’d you catch him?

[worker shouting, grunting]

[sidekick] Get up, goddamn it.

No, no, no, no, no. Easy.

[all grunting]

Thank you.

[sidekicks grunting continues]

[cannon fires]

[sighs]

[all grunting, panting]

[overseers shouting indistinctly]

[worker grunting, breathing heavily]

[screaming]

[groaning]

[worker 2] See there, that Black man?

He was sold with me in Opelousas, ran away.

[whimpering]

Looks like he works for Jim Fassel now.

Biggest man hunter around these parts. Hunts day and night.

[cannon fires]

[whip cracking]

[worker screaming]

[guard] That’s it. Get him down.

[sidekick] Wounded coming in.

[worker breathing heavily, grunting]

[guard 2] All right. Here we go.

[guard] Get him to a nurse if he can’t…

[guards chattering]

[sidekick] Make some room for you guys…

This one too.

[sergeant] Right through here. You can chain him on the floor.

[sidekicks grunting, panting]

[guard] Medical said they’d take him.

[groaning, crying]

[enslaved people coughing]

[flies buzzing]

[chains clanging]

[grunting, yelping]

[crying]

[dog barking]

What do they call you?

Tomas.

Do you have a family, Tomas?

A wife?

[sniffles]

Someone to think about?

A mama?

[Tomas shudders]

Then remember…

This is just work.

Same as you always done. Just work.

[flies buzzing]

God is with us.

[breathes shakily]

How can you say that to him?

“God is with us.”

[stammering] Wh-Where… Where… Where is he?

And why has he not set you free? Hmm?

Or has he?

Oh. So… So you… You are… are not in these?

Well, then stand up…

Stand up… [breathing heavily] …G-Go. Stand up.

Stand up, a-and praise your God for all he has done for you, for-for-for-for all of us.

[breathing shakily]

You. [breathes shakily]

God is not with you.

He is nowhere. [breathing shakily]

And he sends that fool to… To tell us about his word.

To-To be a good slave.

To-To-To-To-To be obedient to your masters.

Is that what God says to you? [sniffles]

[Peter] God says many things…

I do not know why…

God shows himself to some people and not to others…

But if you do not know him…

I will pray for you.

[breathing heavily]

[priest] Matthew 17:20 says that you can move a mountain.

But faith without work is dead. Faith!

It’s okay to work and die for your master.

Faith is obedience. Be obedient.

[laborer] Come on down. Hold it, hold it.

Bring it down. All right, all right. Yeah.

[priest] Faith. Give unto the Lord…

[laborer] All right. Keep moving.

There we go. Up, up.

[priest] …Give unto the Lord the glory…

[laborer] Look alive. Look alive. Okay. All right.

[Tomas panting]

[grunts]

Steady yourself. Long day out here.

Water break!

Not you. Not you.

[cannon fires]

Not you.

[priest] Book of Timothy teaches us, “All who’s under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy, worthy of respect.”

You, you. Water.

[Peter sighs]

[priest] Book of Timothy teaches us, “All who’s under the yoke of slavery, should consider your master worthy, worthy of respect”…

[blows]

[priest] …Worthy.

Worthy.

[army engineer] Clear!

[soldiers] Clear! Let’s go! Let’s move! Move!

[sergeant] Back to work.

[soldiers, laborers coughing]

[sergeant] “And God has revealed his very will to me. And so, I issue Proclamation 95.”

What the hell’s that mean?

[sighs] Lincoln freed the slaves.

What?

[sergeant] Lincoln freed the slaves.

Get on, boy. Fetch us a couple tins of water.

[sergeant groans] Desperate man, Lincoln.

You know, according to one of these other papers from a couple weeks back, slaves are running to Baton Rouge from every direction now that Grant holds the town.

Fixing for liberty. One and all.

[spits, groans]

Matter with you?

[breathes heavily]

N*gger put something in my stew.

And the damn corn pone’s rotted out!

Damn you, son of a bitch. You put something in my stew, n*gger?

[soldier laughing]

What y’all looking at? Get back to work.

[laughing]

[sergeant groans] What you put in my stew? [spits]

What, now you gonna eyeball me again, boy? Get over here. Get over here!

You gone crazy from the heat, boy? Hmm?

He is just a child.

[sergeant grunts]

[Peter grunting]

[grunting]

Boy must have a death wish. Hmm?

[whistles]

What?

[inhales deeply]

[soldier] Back to work.

[sergeant] Go!

[grunting, breathes deeply]

[folk music playing]

[enslaved people coughing]

[guards whooping, laughing]

[sighs]

[inhales deeply]

[folk music stops]

[Fassel] I’m your God.

You walk the Earth because I let you.

You’re my dog now.

Perhaps you will give me some of that fine meat you give your other dog.

[laughs]

You’re funny now, big stick.

You’ll see.

Come on. Hurry up.

[guard] Go! Let’s go!

[officer] One, two, three, four! One!

Hey, keep moving.

[officer] One, two, three, four!

He’s a dead man.

No.

[breathing heavily]

[Fassel] You miss your family?

The dog’s got your scent. So do I.

[dog barking]

[breathing heavily]

[guard] Yeah, well, move it now.

[Peter] I heard it myself.

[guard 2] Back it up!

Slaves are free.

Free?

[laborers coughing]

Says who?

Lincoln. We must get to Baton Rouge. Lincoln’s army is there.

It’s true. I heard it also.

[guard 3] Bring it up! Let’s go.

So, where is Baton Rouge?

Five days through the swamp.

There are many ways to die in a swamp.

There are many ways to die here.

If you go, I’ll follow.

[metal clanging]

[fires crackling]

[shovels clanging]

[laborers shouting, grunting]

[laborer grunts]

[sergeant] Hey. Get it outta here.

Get it outta here.

[soldier] Up the pit.

Go!

[dog barking]

[cannon fires]

[Peter breathing heavily]

[horse whinnies]

[deserters coughing]

[cannon fires]

Get it in.

[groans]

[flies buzzing]

Should get that lime in there, you cowards! Whole damn camp stinks.

[deserter] The hell we will.

Not when there’s a perfectly good n*gger to do it.

[deserters, laborers coughing]

You gonna hang, damn deserter.

Here. Dig.

Get that lime in there.

[soil scrapes]

[explosions]

[Peter, sergeant grunting]

[soldier grunts, groaning]

Damn you, n*gger. [grunts]

[groans, grunts]

[Peter, soldier grunts]

Whoever bemoans the master’s will…

[Peter grunts]

[yelling]

[priest shouts]

[laborers clamoring]

[guard] Runner! Runner!

[runner grunts, pants]

[guard 2] We’ve got a runner!

[runner grunting, groans]

[gun cocks]

[runner 2] Let’s go! Run, run!

[worker grunts, pants]

[runner grunts]

[runner 2 grunts]

[guard 3] Deserter!

[guard 4] They’re going for the swamp!

We got work.

[whistles]

[dogs barking, growling]

[horse neighs]

[dogs barking]

[all panting]

[all panting]

[birds squawk]

[exhales deeply]

[Peter] Swamp. This way.

[all panting]

[Peter grunts]

[panting]

[dogs barking]

[grunts]

[all panting]

[all panting]

[dogs barking]

[panting]

[panting, grunting]

[worker] Tomas. Come, Tomas.

[dog barking]

[breathing shakily, groans]

[growling]

[screaming]

[growling]

[Tomas screaming]

[pants, grunts]

[grunts, panting]

[Tomas screaming]

[all grunting, panting]

[worker whimpers]

[sidekick 2] Come on. Come on. Come on.

[sidekicks grunting]

[Fassel whistles]

[dog barking]

[whimpering]

[sidekick] Get out of there.

[dogs barking, growling]

[whimpering]

[sidekick] Enough!

[Fassel] Where are we going?

[Tomas pants]

Do you know where you’re going, or are you just running?

Damn it.

[breathing heavily]

[horse whinnies]

I take you back to that camp, they’re gonna grind you up like meat.

You tell me where your friends are heading, though… and I’ll let you go.

[breathes shakily]

[stammers] You ain’t worth chasing.

Swamp.

Swamp’s everywhere.

Which direction? North? East?

[crying]

Had an idea to get to Lincoln’s army.

Down Baton Rouge, southwest.

All right. Go on, then.

[whimpering]

[Fassel] Go on.

[dogs barking]

Go on, then.

Give my regards to old Abe.

Look here, boss. We got a runner.

[grunts]

[horse whinnies]

[alligators growling]

See a n*gger with an idea, best put him underground.

[alligators growling]

Split up.

[all panting]

W-Which way?

[all panting]

Swamp.

Horse trail. It’s faster.

No, too dangerous.

[pants] I have a gun.

[Peter] They have more.

I am going.

Do not.

You are not my master.

He is too brave. I follow you.

No, we must go our own way.

Harder to track.

You abandon me?

Never.

Go through the swamp.

Follow the sound of Lincoln’s cannons.

Go.

[panting]

[grunts]

[dog barking]

[dog barking]

[grunts, panting]

[dogs barking]

[panting]

[dog barking]

[horse shrieks]

Go on, take the horse trail.

[horse whinnies]

[breathing heavily]

[grunts]

[grunts]

[grunts, breathes heavily]

[grunts]

[groans]

[house occupant] …we understand

[child chatters]

[house occupant 2 chatters]

[house occupant chatters]

[child chatters]

[house occupant chatters]

Come, let us bow our heads…

[Peter groans]

[splutters, coughs]

[barking]

[horse whinnies]

[dog barking]

[grunts]

[house occupant] The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Bless us, oh, Lord.

It is thy gifts, which we are about to receive…

[chicken squawks]

…from thy bounty.

Through Christ, our Lord.

[grunting]

Amen.

Runner. Runner!

Runner!

Runner! Runner!

[bell ringing]

Runner! Runner!

Runner! Runner!

Runner! Runner!

[whistles]

[dog barking]

Runner!

Runner! Runner!

It went that way, towards the swamp.

[horse nickers]

[whinnies]

[panting]

[grunts]

[dog barking]

[groans]

[dog barking]

[grunts]

[horse whinnies]

[dogs barking]

[sidekick] These guys are not letting him out.

[dog barking]

[dog barking]

[dog barking]

[growling]

[dogs barking, growling]

That’s a clever son bitch.

Looks like he went through that swamp.

[alligator growls]

[Fassel whistles]

[dog barks]

[horse whinnies]

[grunts]

[breathing heavily]

[grunts]

[grunts]

[roars]

[Peter shouts]

[grunting]

[gasps]

[breathing heavily]

[groaning]

[gasps, panting]

Mama, you all right?

Saw your papa.

You think he’s alive?

I know it.

What if he don’t come back?

Your papa is going to be back.

Do not ever stop believing that.

Hey?

[in Haitian Creole] Your papa is going to be back.

Do not ever stop believing that.

I’ve seen your papa survive things most men can’t.

When we came here, they insisted that we change.

Change our names… our language.

They even tried to change who we are.

Your papa taught us to hold on.

Now it is our turn to do the same for him.

Hold on.

Hold on to each other.

Hold on.

[in English] Hey?

[in Haitian Creole] Hold on.

[in English] Huh?

Come, come, come.

[sighs]

[singing in Haitian Creole]

[insects chirping, buzzing]

[Peter’s partner continues singing]

[thunder rumbling]

[breathing heavily]

[panting]

[groaning, panting]

[groaning]

[Scipion] Papa!

[dogs barking]

[horse whinnies]

[dog barking]

[grunts]

[sidekick grunts]

[sidekick 2 grunts] Look like he knew right where to do him, too.

[sidekick] Ain’t no way that boy got away from this thing. [grunts]

[both grunting]

[sidekick sighs]

Open her up.

[panting]

[sidekick grunting]

[sidekick 2] Ain’t nothin’ in him.

[sniffs]

Ah, yeah… [sighs] …look at that.

Our boy fixed a gator. [chuckles]

[sidekick laughs]

How in the hell does an ignorant n*gger got knowledge like that?

You’re the ignorant one thinking like that.

My father was a corn husker…

My mother passed when I was young, so… the job of raising me fell on our n*gger house girl.

She took care of me. [grunts]

She fed me. She washed me. She taught me things…

She was my friend.

One evening…

I asked my father if she could join us for supper, and he looked at me in a funny way and said, “Then what?”

I said, “So we could eat together,” to which he asked, “Then what?”

I didn’t know, I was just a boy. But he did.

He said…

[blows]

…”First, they eat our food, then they’ll take our jobs and then they’ll steal our land. We give the n*gger so much as a crumb, they’re going to take over the whole damn country.”

I was so ashamed. [stammers] I… I told him I’d been sneaking her food when she was hungry.

He got real quiet…

Called her into the dining room, picked up a dinner knife and… fixed her right there.

Left her in the field to rot.

Took her three days to die.

Last thing she said was, “Why?”

Hopped a train to St. Louis, made my way down to Mississippi, found myself in this here swamp.

And know what I saw?

I saw n*ggers, just like her… running, hiding… surviving.

People make ’em out to be ignorant, but far from it.

In fact, what’s worse… [chuckles] …is they tend to be persistent.

[sidekick sighs]

See, one gets free… then another, then another, then another, then another.

And someday, they may return the favor on us.

Can you imagine?

Hmm.

[insects buzzing]

[grunting]

[alligator growling]

[grunts]

[dogs barking]

[growling, barking]

[insects buzzing]

[Peter breathing heavily]

[grunts]

[grunting]

[groaning]

[breathing heavily]

[groans]

[whispering] The Lord is my salvation. The Lord is my salvation.

He is salvation.

[breathing heavily]

[Peter’s partner] Peter.

[speaking Haitian Creole]

[breathing heavily]

[cannons firing]

[breathing heavily]

[grunts]

[Peter, in English] I shall fear no enemy.

I shall fear no enemy.

[grunts]

[sidekick 2] Boy must be dead by now.

[Fassel] Find him.

[Peter pants]

[grunting]

[grunts]

[grunts]

[grunts]

[grunts]

[bees buzzing]

[dog growling]

[horse blusters]

[dog barking]

[dog barking]

[Peter groans]

[shrieks, groans]

[grunting]

[dog barking]

[grunting]

[groans]

[bees buzzing]

[grunts]

[dog barking]

[dog barking]

[pants, blows]

[grunts]

[dog barking]

[dog barking]

[hisses]

[shrieks]

[groans]

[groans]

[farm workers chattering]

[Peter’s partner] Mssr. Hurley?

Everything good, sir?

[sniffs] Morning after next, man named Mr. Fabian gonna cart in up from Atchafalaya, way of Simmesport.

Yes, sir.

You come around the barn, go off with him when he leaves.

Sir?

[chuckles] Captain Lyons sold you.

There a problem?

[clears throat]

Have I displeased Captain Lyons?

Not that I’m aware of.

[sighs]

Betsy sure has gotten big, hasn’t she?

She’s almost as tall as you are now.

[Peter’s partner] Betsy.

Then my children and I look forward to serving Mr. Fabian.

Yeah, children ain’t going.

[stammers] Sir?

Well, Mr. Fabian said he has you a new husband, now that yours has been put to war.

[grunts]

Hey, look at me. Look at me.

We clear?

Please, sir.

I said, are we clear?

Yes, sir.

Good.

Now go on, get back to work.

[Scipion] Mama?

[Peter’s partner] Scipion. [sniffs, breathing heavily]

Go inside. [sniffs]

[dog barking]

[breathing heavily]

[cannon firing]

[cannon firing]

[birds warbling]

[dog barking]

[birds warbling]

[Peter groaning]

[horse blusters]

[Fassel whistles]

[dog barking]

[gun cocks]

[grunts]

You have led dogs to me.

I have done nothing.

I will shoot you.

No, no, no.

[stammers] Look.

Onion. Onion. Rub.

Dogs cannot smell. Take it. Take it.

Look. Look.

[spits]

You are mad.

To hell with you.

[Peter grunting]

[dog barking]

[worker grunting]

[both panting]

[Peter groaning]

[dog barking]

[groaning]

[barking, growling]

[breathing heavily]

[dogs barking]

[barking, growling]

[sidekick 2] There’s something there.

[grunts]

[dog barking]

Bitch got a scent.

Come on down, boy!

Goddamn it, get your ass down from there!

Get back.

Don’t point that goddamn gun at me.

[worker] Get back!

Get your ass down here!

You do not own me!

I am not going back!

I am not a slave.

I am a man.

I am a man!

I am a man! I…

[gunshot]

[gasps]

[dogs growling]

[sidekick] There you go. Come on. [grunts]

[dogs barking, growling]

[spluttering]

[Fassel] Where’s your friend?

[dogs growling]

Where’s your friend?

No more running.

[dogs barking]

[breathing heavily]

Where’s your friend?

[whispers] Where’s your friend?

[grunting, gurgling]

[dogs barking]

[Fassel grunting]

[knife hitting]

[squelching]

[dog barking, growling]

[grunts]

[sobs]

[sighs]

Bring this back to camp.

[dog barks, growls]

[grunts]

Come on.

[crying]

[Betsy] Sent away?

Sent where?

Up Atchafalaya.

Mama, you can’t.

Man sold me off.

We need to run.

Hey. Do you know what happens to runners?

Huh?

We can’t do nothing.

[sobs] You’re getting sent away, Mama.

We can’t do nothing. [sobbing]

I know. Don’t you know? I know, Betsy.

Yes.

Did I say I’m doing nothing? Huh?

No.

Then damn it, stop running your mouth.

[sobs] I’m sorry, Mama.

End of the workday, come see me by the gin barn.

[whispers] Don’t be late.

[thunder rumbling]

[grunts]

[thunder rumbling]

[breathing shakily]

[cotton barn workers chattering]

[overseer] You keep pace there.

[overseer] Keep it coming.

[cotton barn worker] Yes, sir.

[overseer 2] Nice and steady.

[grunting]

[both panting]

[overseer 3] Watch them sides! Don’t leave ’em hanging.

[overseer 4] Don’t leave so much. You can fit more in there.

[overseer 5] Let’s go!

Steady.

Get it before the damn sun goes down.

[Peter’s partner] We need to stay together.

There ain’t no other way?

It’s the only way. Okay.

Do it… Now!

[grunts]

[Peter’s partner screaming, wailing]

[wailing continues]

[fire crackling]

[grunting]

[horses shrieking]

[horses shrieking]

[horses shriek, whinny]

[horse shrieking]

[breathing heavily]

[coughs]

[gasps]

[coughs]

[coughs]

[breathing heavily]

[coughing]

[harp chimes]

[harp chimes]

[grunts]

[harp chimes]

[coughing]

[harp chimes]

[harp chimes]

[harp chimes]

[harp chimes]

[harp chimes]

[child whimpers]

[groans]

[child whispering]

[Peter] Come. Come. Come. Come. Come.

[child groans]

[grunts]

[child whispering]

[child whispering]

[Peter coughs]

[Peter coughing]

[child whimpers]

[Peter grunts]

I will get you water. Water.

[whispering]

I want to get you water.

[groans]

[breathing shakily]

[whimpering]

[breathing shakily]

[whimpering]

[child whispers] God loves you.

[kisses, breathing shakily]

[breathing shakily]

God loves you.

God loves you.

Don’t you move.

Do not shoot. Don’t… Do not shoot.

[whimpering]

Oh. [chuckles] I got you now, boy.

[child whimpers]

Take that knife out your belt.

Okay. Please, do… Please.

Do it!

Okay. Okay. [breathing heavily]

Right there.

Do not shoot. Do not shoot.

[sidekick] She alive?

She’s just a child.

I asked if she’s alive!

Yes. Yes. She’s in a bad way.

[sidekick] So leave it then.

L-Let me get her water. I… I said leave it!

[child whimpers]

No. No.

[sidekick] Now get up, boy. She gone.

Up!

[breathing heavily]

That’s it.

Now walk, boy…

[grunts]

[screams] Fucking n*gger!

[grunts]

[whimpers, gasping]

[gunshot]

[grunts]

[breathing heavily]

[sidekick 2 grunts] You.

You fought that gator.

You fought that gator and survived.

[grunting]

You are the worst kind.

The worst kind.

[grunting] Well, you got a family.

[groaning, stuttering]

My boss can help you. Come on…

[grunts]

[panting]

[dog barking]

[panting]

[sidekick 2 groaning, breathing heavily]

The s-same boy. [stutters] He ran to the field…

[breathing heavily]

[dogs barking]

[barking continues]

[panting]

[grunting]

[dog growling]

[dog whimpers]

[panting]

[panting]

[grunts]

[groaning]

[cannon fires]

[firing continues]

[grunting]

Lincoln.

Lincoln.

Lincoln.

[panting]

[groaning]

[firing continues]

[groans]

[groaning, yelping]

[whip cracks]

[Fassel] Humble down.

[groaning]

[horse whinnies]

Humble down.

[Peter gasping, groaning]

[Fassel chuckles]

Here’s your meat.

Beg.

Beg.

Beg, dog.

Beg.

Beg!

Beg.

I told you I was your God.

[gunshot]

[gasps]

[coughing, gasping]

[gasping]

You are not my God.

Captain Andre Cailloux.

1st Louisiana Native Guard.

You are with Lincoln?

Yes, we are.

Give the man some water.

Yes, sir.

Water.

[sipping]

[coughs]

You alone?

[breathing heavily]

Can you take me to my family? [breathes shakily]

Help this man.

Yes, sir.

Get him shoes. Take his shoes!

Come on.

[laughing echoing]

[child] What are they, Papa?

[Peter] God’s little angels.

[child] Why are they here?

[Peter] They guide our way.

[muffled shouting]

[muffled shouting]

[coughing]

[coughing]

[nurse] Didn’t think you would make it. Your leg was so infected.

Where is this?

Baton Rouge.

I must get to my family. [grunts, pants]

You must rest.

[grunts, coughs]

[inaudible chatter]

[army officer] Your name?

Peter.

[army officer] Age?

Um, I don’t know.

Well, pick something.

You pick something.

[sighs]

Forty-eight.

[army officer] Did you know your parents?

Yes.

Where were they from?

Haiti.

Haiti. Is that where you were born?

Yes.

Former owner?

Lyons. Captain John Lyons.

Cotton planter. The Atchafalaya River.

Atchafalaya. Is that where you ran from?

No. The Army men come, take me to Clinton. I run from there.

Clinton.

See.

Did you see a railway in Clinton?

Hmm? Train cars carrying big guns?

Yes, I built the tracks.

Am I not free?

Just keep yourself steady.

Technically, while you’re here, you’re contraband.

Stolen property.

I must get to my family.

Dodienne, Betsy, Scipion…

Mm-mmm. No, no, no.

…Laurette.

No, no, no.

Write their names down.

No, that is not how this is.

You write down their names. Lincoln say I am free.

Oh, he did? Well, that’s a good thing.

Next time you see Lincoln, please give him my compliments.

Right now you’re in an army camp, during a time of war.

Understand?

So you and everyone else who ran here has a choice.

You’ll work on one of the Federal farms… governed by this here…

I will not.

…set of rules and regulations…

I will not.

Or you will join the army.

You help us beat these godforsaken devils, my good man, and you will not just get back with your family.

You will help free your family.

And I’m sure your good friend Lincoln will be mighty proud of you…

Mr. Peter.

Show this man to the Native Guard.

You’re dismissed, soldier.

Next.

Gordon. Gordon! Gordon… Please, please.

Gordon. Gordon, my friend.

[groaning]

Good to see you, my friend.

Good to see you. How are you?

[exhales sharply] We made it.

Yes, we have.

John?

[sighs] No, he did not make it.

[groans]

I will come see you.

[groans]

Thank you.

[Native Guard soldier] Squad, attention!

Squad, at rest.

New recruits, eyes forward. One arm-length from the next man.

Move up.

Welcome, Brother.

You pick up your uniform up there.

Bonsoir, Peter.

Bonsoir. They’re going to let us fight.

They may not have a choice.

Be ready.

[nurse] There he is, there.

My leg is fine. You will not take it.

Your… Oh, no, no. We’re not doctors, sir.

No… [stammers] …uh… We were alerted to your condition.

Uh… Well, with your permission, we were wondering if you wouldn’t like to join us for a few moments.

It’s okay. They’re good people.

A uniform will be waiting when you get back. Yeah? Go on.

Right this way, sir.

Thank you, Sister.

All right.

It’s called a camera.

What does it do?

Well…

See, it, uh…

Makes a likeness of you.

Peter, we’re gonna make sure that every person in the world knows exactly what slavery truly looks like.

All right?

Now, um, if you could just turn your back toward…

Do not touch me.

I’m sorry.

If… If you could turn your back towards the camera, please.

And, um, maybe put your arm out…

Your hand on your hip, like so.

And, uh, t-turn your head.

A little more. Yeah.

Is that comfortable?

Mmm.

[clears throat]

[watch ticking]

[clears throat] Thank you.

You were born a free man?

Yeah, that’s right. Bunch of us in this company.

Allowed to read and to write?

Allowed to do a lot of things.

If someone must allow you to do something, then you are not really free, are you?

[sighs] No.

Sir?

[sighs]

Captain Cailloux and Private Peter reporting, sir.

We know Johnny Reb has big guns all along the ridge here.

It seems they’re putting new ones down here, along the river, just south of Port Hudson.

Now if we don’t open up this bend here along the Mississippi, we’ll never control the South.

Hmm.

Is this the Negro here that was running from Clinton?

Yes, sir.

What were you doing there?

We built the railroad.

[general] What did you see?

It’s okay.

Cannons.

Cannons?

Like them?

No, not like those.

Big cannons.

Did you see troops?

Many soldiers.

We’ve got to take Port Hudson before those reinforcements arrive.

General, permission to speak?

[sighs]

Johnny Reb is dug in there real deep.

There’s only one way in.

It’s a killing field, sir.

I know what it is.

But somebody has to mount that attack.

How the hell did you survive all those days in the swamp? Hmm?

I know the swamp.

Yes, well… doesn’t mean you’re fit for combat.

In closed circles, there’s the great Negro question…

Are you fighters, or are you runners?

You know what I see here?

Disobedience.

Dismissed.

Come on, now.

Come on, boy. This ain’t the time. Come on, let’s go.

I fight them.

And they beat me.

They whip me.

They string me up.

They sell me.

They throw me down a well.

They pull me out and beat me again.

And I fight them again.

They cut me.

They burn me. They burn my neck. They burn my feet.

They break the bones in my body… more times than I can count, but they never… never break me.

Oh, we’ll test that mettle.

Captain, your men attack at dawn.

Dismissed.

You know, I used to run around New Orleans calling myself the blackest man in America.

You might got me beat.

[both chuckling]

Tomorrow on the battlefield, you’re with me.

[flies buzzing]

[soldier] Go first.

[soldier 2] Yep.

[Native Guard soldier] Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

[Cailloux] Halt!

All of us ran here…

But as of now, no more running.

Billy Yank and Johnny Reb, they fight for money and power.

We fight for something bigger…

We fight for freedom.

[explosion]

[gasps, whimpers]

Not to prove something to some General.

Freedom!

Freedom for you!

Freedom for the man next to you.

Freedom for the people back in the fields!

[whimpering]

We will not ask for freedom!

We will not wait for freedom to be handed to us!

We will take freedom!

Native Guard!

Forward march!

[Native Guard soldier] Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left…

[sniffles]

[soldiers yelling]

…left, right, left.

Left, left…

[soldiers yelling, praying]

[explosion]

[grunts]

[gasps]

[grunts]

[Cailloux] Native Guard!

[grunts]

Fight! Fight!

[gasps, panting]

[soldiers praying]

[Cailloux] Spread out!

Spread out!

[yelling]

[yelling continues]

Halt! Stop!

[grunts]

To the trenches!

To the trenches! To the trenches!

[grunting, whimpering]

To the trenches!

To the trenches!

[shouts]

[grunts]

[grunting, whimpering]

Grab that! Grab that shot! Take it to the cannon!

[Confederate soldier] Ready! Fire!

[grunting, screaming continues]

[groaning]

[Cailloux] Form the line! Form the line!

[grunts, gasping]

[muffled screams]

[soldier screams] No!

[screaming]

[soldier 2] Keep going!

[breathing shakily, grunting]

[screaming] Mama!

[soldier] In formation!

Ready! Aim! Fire!

[grunting, yelling]

Ready! Aim! Fi… [grunts]

[yelling]

[grunting, screaming]

[yelling]

[Native Guard soldier] Captain Cailloux!

[grunts]

[grunting]

[breathes heavily]

[grunts, breathing heavily]

[officer] Stay in formation!

[grunting, groaning]

[screaming] Mama!

[grunts]

[soldier screaming] Mama!

[groaning]

[screams]

It is all right.

You have done good.

Mama!

Go to Mama.

[coughs]

Go to her.

[soldier] Forward!

Gordon! Gordon!

[grunts] Peter. Peter, I’m shot!

[screaming, groaning]

[grunting] You’re good. You’re good. It went through.

Get up! Get up!

They got me.

They got me!

We are not dead!

[grunts]

There are too many.

[breathes heavily] We cannot stay here.

We must get to those cannons. We must fight!

We must get to those cannons!

Get to those cannons!

[screams]

[all screaming]

[screams]

[grunting]

Get to those cannons!

Get to those cannons!

[screaming]

[fires crackle]

[beating drum]

[horse whinnies]

[home occupants screaming, crying]

[crying, screaming continues]

Get your hands off of me.

[captain] Captain Lyons, may God above show no mercy upon your pitiful soul.

[home occupants screaming]

[Native Guard soldier] Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left… Company, halt!

[captain] We are the Louisiana Native Guard.

You folks are free.

[clamoring]

Free?

What you mean free?

[captain] You’re free. You ain’t got to do this no more.

[murmurs, chatter]

[laborer] Listen to this man.

We is free. Free.

[rejoicing, crying]

[captain] Five men per house.

[cheering]

Thank you, Jesus.

[captain] Help these folks. Go on.

Grab your things. We’re all leaving this place.

[sobbing]

Thank God.

Bless you. Thank you. [cries]

Are you all right? Can you stand?

[whimpering]

Stuart! Stuart.

Are we free?

My wife, Dodienne, do you know?

Have you seen her?

No. No. No.

Bless you.

Dodienne!

Do you know Dodienne?

No.

Dodienne!

Dodienne!

[crying]

Dodienne!

Dodienne!

Dodienne!

[enslaved person] Thank you, Lord.

[enslaved person 2] Thank you, Lord. We’re free!

[enslaved person 3] Praise the Lord!

[breathing heavily]

[Peter speaking Haitian Creole]

[Dodienne speaking Haitian Creole]

Papa?

Papa?

[breathes shakily]

[Peter] Dodienne. Dodienne!

[crying] Peter!

[crying] I love you. I love you.

Peter. [crying]

[Betsy] Papa.

Oh, Peter.

[crying]

[Peter crying] Laurette. Laurette.

Papa! [crying]

[Peter] Come. Come.

Betsy!

[crying] Oh, my love.

[laughs] Oh! [kisses]

[Peter] Come, come. Pray. Pray with me. Pray with me. Pray.

Thank you, God. [sniffles, crying]

[crying]

Thank you, God. Thank you, God.

Thank you, God. Thank you. [crying]

Look at you! [kisses]

[Dodienne] We are together.

[laughs]

[laughs]

[groans] Dreamt of this. [laughs]

[laughing]

[Peter] God is so good. God is so good. [crying] Thank you, God.

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