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Is There Any Truth to the Movie “Emancipation”? What Makes Will Smith’s Film Unique?

Will Smith’s latest historical drama, Emancipation, is generating a stir even if it hasn’t done well at the box office. The film presents itself as a prime illustration of the ways in which the legacy of slavery and racial neglect have corroded progressive thought in the United States.

The story follows Gordon, represented by Smith and also known as Whipped Peter, as he deals with the stress of his job and his divorce from Dodienne and their children.

Overall, the film succeeds in making its point and presenting the terrible reality that is heavily affected by catastrophic real-life incidents. It’s true that many of us have wondered this before finding out whether or not a film is based on a true story.

Is the Movie Emancipation Based on a Real-life Event?

The movie is based on a true story, although it has been given a Hollywood spin and a few more sequences to make Peter’s Escape look like a more dramatic adventure. Such as the moment with the furious alligator struggle and the climactic confrontation he had with his supervisor.

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Neither of those occurrences is documented in any way, shape, or form in any historical source, despite the fact that each of those scenarios was wonderfully staged and insanely amusing.

Gordon, who was formerly Whipped Pictures were taken to illustrate the awful wounds that were left on Peter’s back as a result of the weaponry that he had been subjected to during his time as an African slave in the United States.

It is not known what his complete name is; nonetheless, he was known by the surname Gordon due to the fact that enslaved people were not given the honor of being given a surname at the time.

Even now, it is plausible that he was given the name Peter as a result of the slave owners’ refusal to recognize his mother’s given name. In this scenario, Peter would have been his mother’s given name.

The scourged-back shot, which was one of the most widely shared photos of the Abolitionist Movement during the time of the American Civil War, is still considered to be one of the most infamous images from that time period.

Is There Any Truth to the Movie "Emancipation"? What Makes Will Smith's Film Unique?

No one knows the answer to the question of how many guys who were once just like Gordon have been lost to history.

Who exactly was he? Who were the other members of his family? You can’t help but wonder whether anyone would ever be aware of his existence if it weren’t for this shot, just as you can’t help but wonder about the existence of so many other lives who were forced into slavery and whose tales were never shared. The following summarises the scant information we have about Gordon.

The Torture That Was Inflicted Upon the Slaves

Gordon was born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana, which was owned by John and Bridget Lyons at the time.

Although nobody knows for sure when he was born, several people have speculated that it was sometime around the year 1815.

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According to the diary that Gordon kept, Gordon was given a heavy caning in October of 1862, which was around two months before Christmas.

The reason for the caning was unknown. He was left with horrific marks across a good portion of his back as a result of these beatings.

Gordon was flogged by a man named ARTAYOU CARRIER, who worked as an overseer on the plantation.

Is There Any Truth to the Movie "Emancipation"? What Makes Will Smith's Film Unique?

When John Lyons found out about the beating, he fired the supervisor who had been responsible for this terrible assault.

Over the next two months, while Gordon recovered in bed, he made the decision to arrange his escape.

It was fairly usual for slaves to be armed with weapons, which left horrific scars on their bodies. The term given to the whip that was used to inflict severe pain on slaves was “the cat of nine tails,” and it was known by that name.

It was a whip that was woven and flowed into nine separate sections, and each piece had a knot in the middle of it. Additionally, some of the pieces had broken glass and nails attached to the very end of them.

Does the Character in the Movie Look Anything Like the Real Peter?

Indeed, to a certain extent. As was said before, Will Smith’s persona was based on the runaway slave depicted in the famous “Whipped Peter” images.

These photographs were taken on April 2, 1863, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while Peter was receiving medical attention.

Will Smith plays Peter, who also has a keloid treatment-related beard and back scars in the film Emancipation, which is available on Apple TV+.

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In the picture can be seen the runaway slave who has been given the name “Gordon.” On the other hand, the caption “Contraband that marched 40 km to come to our lines” is written in pen only on the back of the picture.

Despite the possibility of differences in facial hair and facial structure from the man portrayed in the images of the Scourged Back, historians think that Gordon and Peter are one and the same person.


Peter, also known as Gordon, is portrayed in the image on the left as he appeared when he arrived at the Union lines in Louisiana.

This is according to the information provided by the image. Will Smith portrays the role of the slave Peter in the movie that is available on Apple TV+.


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