PLEDGE NOW
Slavery In American Film

From “Gone With the Wind” to “Django Unchained” to “Twelve Years a Slave,” we’ll look at the evolving depiction of slavery in American film.

Plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) addresses his slave, Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) as Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) looks on in the 2013 film, "12 Years A Slave." (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) scolds his slave, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) as Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) looks on in the 2013 film, “12 Years A Slave.” The movie is based on the real-life Solomon Northrup’s 1853 memoir of the same title. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

American slavery has had all kinds of treatment by Hollywood.  Mammy and Scarlett in the “Gone With the Wind.”  Whipping and slave ships in “Roots.”  Swagger and revenge in “Django Unchained.”  Now comes a powerful, brutal, game-changing depiction from Fox Searchlight pictures and British filmmaker Steve McQueen.  “12 Years a Slave” tells the true story of a free black American snatched and sold into slavery in 1841, and the decade and more he was under the lash.  It is shattering.  And, its director says, long overdue.  Up next On Point:  “12 Years a Slave,” and slavery in American film.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Wesley Morris, sports and pop culture columnist at Grantland.com, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. (@Wesley_Morris)

Brenda Stevenson, professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, author of “The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender and the Origins of the L.A. Riots” and “Life in Black And White: Family and Community In the Slave South.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Yorker: Fighting to Survive – “’12 Years a Slave’ is easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery. It shows up the plantation scenes of ‘Gone with the Wind’ for the sentimental kitsch that they are, and, intentionally or not, it’s an artist’s rebuke to Quentin Tarantino’s high-pitched, luridly extravagant ‘Django Unchained.'”

UCLA Today: Brenda Stevenson On The Importance Of the New Film ’12 Years A Slave’ — ” Patsey has gone to borrow some soap from another concubine on a neighboring plantation because her mistress, Mrs. Epps, would not give her soap to clean herself. All she wanted was to be clean, and for that, this young woman, who could pick more cotton than any of Epps’ male slaves was stripped naked, tied down and whipped to within an inch of her life. I really hoped that the beating would end in her death. I cried because it did not,  because she had to continue to bear the unbearable, and because I knew that this scene had been acted out countless times during the era of slavery.”

BBC News: Slavery on Film: What Is Hollywood’s Problem? — “With ’12 Years a Slave’ about to arrive in US cinemas some are asking if it will redress the balance and finally bring audiences a more accurate representation of slavery.Variety’s chief film critic Scott Foundas admires the picture and thinks it will at least give audiences a hefty dose of reality.  ‘I think ’12 Years a Slave’ is unique in terms of motion pictures in trying to have this very plausible realism,’ he says. ‘In terms of this kind of brutal realism it’s pretty much unparalleled in the history of American movies.'”

Watch A Trailer From ’12 Years A Slave’

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
May 22, 2015
Crashed cars with airbags deployed are shown to visitors as part of the display of Toyota Motor Corp.'s safety performance standards at the automaker's exhibition hall in Toyota, central Japan. (Shuji Kajiyama/AP)

ISIS rolls on. A TPP vote. Biggest recall ever – airbags. And Letterman’s last bow. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

May 22, 2015
The Barden Bellas, the all-female a cappella group at the center of Pitch Perfect 2. (Richard Cartwright/Universal Pictures via AP)

Pitch Perfect 2 is the number one movie in the country, and it’s over the top on a capella.

RECENT
SHOWS
May 21, 2015
Ships dock at the piers at the seaport town of Murmansk on the Kola peninsula in Russia. Russian authorities have detained a Greenpeace ship 'Arctic Sunrise' and 27 crew and they face charges when they arrived at Murmansk. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

The Arctic Circle is opening up at a gallop as the ice disappears. Oil, gold, armies, spies. Big opportunities and fear of the consequences.

 
May 21, 2015
In this photo taken Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, late light falls on Wheeler Hall, South Hall and the Campanile on the University of California campus in Berkeley, Calif. This famously liberal college town is known as the cradle of the Free Speech Movement, but speech isn’t the only thing that’s free here. Whether you’re strolling the redwood-shaded University of California, Berkeley, campus, or slipping across the Oakland border for a dose of Golden State history, you can exercise your limbs and your intellect without giving your wallet a workout. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

With student debt topping $1 trillion, a renewed call for radical change – maybe even free public university tuition. We’ll hear more about it.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
A Former Bike Gang Member Explains "The Life"
Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Larry called in from Lawrenceburg, KY and told us he was once a member of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, a mid-Atlantic biker gang. He didn’t sugar coat the facts as he explained the draw of the brotherhood and what makes the outlaw motorcycle corner the underworld go round.

More »
Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: May 15, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015

We cancel a few hours and suddenly all of you get convinced of a global radio conspiracy! Plus, dragon zoos.

More »
1 Comment
 
Caller: ‘It Doesn’t Always Turn Out Okay’
Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One caller shares her own story of an extremely premature birth. Her daughter, born at 22 1/2 weeks in 2012, was taken off life support after seven days.

More »
Comment