Emancipation Plot Synopsis
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, Emancipation is the tale of a man enslaved by the Confederate Army. Peter (Will Smith) will do anything to obtain freedom and get back to his wife Dodienne (Charmaine Bingwa) and their children.
When word spreads that President Lincoln has freed the slaves in rebelling states, Peter wants to find out if it’s true. For days, he will endure the chase of overseer Jim Fassel (Ben Foster) with the hope of encountering Lincoln’s army in Baton Rouge.
Is Emancipation based on a true story?
It is. The inspiration behind Emancipation comes from an 1863 photograph. Attributed to McPherson and Oliver, it depicts the lacerated back of a slave man known as “Whipped Peter” (believed to be named Gordon). Gordon’s picture was a huge catalyst for the abolitionist movement, as it proved to many the horrors of slavery.
Gordon escaped from the plantation of Captain John Lyons and his wife Bridget. After a 10-day chase, he met up with the Union army and his photograph was taken.
To whom does Captain Lyons sell Peter?
Peter lives with his wife Dodienne and their three children on the plantation of Captain John Lyons (Jayson Warner Smith)–until Lyons sells him to the Confederate Army. There, Fassel oversees Peter and hundreds of other enslaved men as they work on the Confederate railroad.
How does Peter escape?
When Peter hears from Confederate soldiers that Lincoln has freed slaves, he decides it’s time to take hold of that freedom. He spreads the word throughout camp, getting everyone in on the plan to run.
They all run at once, and chaos ensues. Fassel and his men kill several slaves as they run, but Peter makes it out. He tells his companions to spread out to improve their chances of not getting caught. Now, each of them are on their own.
Does Jim Fassel catch Peter?
Fassel doesn’t give up on the chase, and his focus is set particularly on catching Peter. For days, Peter runs from the overseer. Making his way through dangerous swamps, Peter narrowly escapes death by alligator and Fassel’s men.
Eventually, Peter comes upon one of his fellow escapees and unintentionally leads Fassel’s dogs to him. Peter encourages him to rub onions all over his skin to divert the dogs from their smell. Peter does it to himself, but his friend doesn’t listen. The dogs lead Fassel right to him, whereas Peter is able to escape.
Peter then comes across a burning house, seemingly a casualty of a battle between Union and Confederate soldiers. Everyone there is dead except for a young Black girl, whom Peter tries to comfort as she passes away. Two of Fassel’s men find him there, but he kills them and again escapes.
Does Peter kill Fassel?
Fassel finally catches up to Peter when he reaches the battleground of the Union army. Fassel pulls a gun on Peter and tells him to beg. Before he can pull the trigger, a Union soldier shoots him. He falls forward onto Peter and dies.
Does Peter join the Union army?
Peter has finally caught up with the Union army, but he’s not immediately free. He’s not given much of a choice but to join their army. When Peter gives the general news of Confederate reinforcements that are soon to arrive, the general decides to send him with the other Black soldiers to take Port Hudson before the reinforcements arrive (knowing they will all likely die).
Like Captain Andre Cailloux (Mustafa Shakir) says, Port Hudson is a killing field. Most of the soldiers die, but Peter rallies them mid-battle to rush the Confederate soldiers and win the battle.
How does Emancipation end? Is Peter reunited with his family?
Emancipation ends with Union soldiers marching into Captain Lyons’ plantation. After Captain Lyons is shot and killed, the soldiers announce to his slaves that they are free. Peter and the other soldiers are ordered to help them, so Peter rushes through the crowd to search for his family.
Finally, he comes upon Dodienne and his children. Dodienne has lost her hand (something she had to do intentionally to avoid being sold), but she embraces her husband, elated for them to all be reunited.
Read More: Emancipation Movie Review