*The following post is part of JCJ’s Awareness to Action: 21 Days Toward Racial Justice campaign.*
Discussion questions after watching the film:
- When Solomon is kidnapped and forced into slavery along with other African Americans, we witness the abusive power and violence two white men wielded over an entire group of people. In what ways does this power imbalance exist today?
- Solomon’s kidnapping and enslavement were justified by a slave trader because he “fit the description given” of a runaway slave. How has this kind of racial profiling persisted in American society to this day?
- When Solomon tells Ford that he used to be a freeman, Ford silences him and says, “I cannot hear that.” Injustice is often much easier to ignore when we don’t listen. How can we confront our privilege and pay attention to what we don’t always want to hear?
- Was it possible to be both a decent man and a slave owner, as Solomon and Eliza debate? How should we view people in the context of their time and circumstance?
- When Mrs. Epps talks to her husband about his slaves, she says, “Look at them. They are foul in their hate.” Is their hate justified?
- Throughout the film, we see how Solomon and the other black slaves are treated differently from white men who are doing the exact same work. Armsby picked only 64 pounds of cotton and was given encouragement while Solomon and some slaves who tripled that amount were punished for not picking enough. Bass and Solomon worked together equally on their construction project, but only Bass was paid and checked up on. In the modern day, with many African Americans having to work much harder than their white colleagues in order to be successful, why do wage and workplace discrimination continue to exist?
- Epps compares his slaves and blacks in general to baboons, and a slave trader claims Randall will “grow into a fine beast.” Throughout history, Jews have also been enslaved, dehumanized, and compared to animals and beasts. How can we use our history and heritage to better understand and fight against the issues facing blacks today?
- What was the most unsettling or jarring part of this story for you? Did you find it difficult to watch and why?
- “It is a spectacle unlike most have ever witnessed. Creatures from the darkest Africa as yet unseen by civilized men.”
- “You’re no free man, and you ain’t from Saratoga. You’re from Georgia. You ain’t no free man. You’re nothing but a Georgia runaway.”
- “Got no gratitude?”
- “Rags and tatters. Rags and tatters.”
- “If you want to survive, do and say as little as possible. Tell no one who you really are and tell no one you can read and write. Unless you want to be [dead]*.”
- “Survival’s not about certain death. It’s about keeping your head down.”
- “Tell no one who I really am — that’s the way to survive? Well, I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”
- “You fit the description given. Why didn’t you answer when called?”
- “You see how fit the boy is, like ripe fruit. It’s very likely he’ll grow into a fine beast.”
- “Her child, man. For God’s sake, are you not sentimental in the least?” “My sentimentality extends the length of a coin.”
- “Your children will soon be forgotten.”
- “Master Ford is a decent man.” “He is a slaver!” “Under the circumstances…” “Under the circumstances, he is a slaver!”
- “You are no better than prized livestock!”
- “Platt. Poor Platt.”
- “The Lord will manage Epps. In good time, the Lord will manage them all.”
- “How can you fall into such despair?”
- “I ain’t got no comfort in this life.”
- “What I done that God hates me so? It’s that godless lot. They brought this on me.” – Epps
- “As reliable employment overseeing is, it is no easy chore on the spirit. I say no man of conscience can take the lash to another human day in and day out without shredding at his own self. Takes him to a place where he either makes excuses within his mind to be unaffected, or he finds some way to trample his guilty sensations.”
- “It is a fact, a plain and simple fact, that what is right and true is right and true for all. White and black alike. I’m only asking in the eyes of God, what is the difference?”
- “You might as well ask what the difference is between a white man and a baboon. I seen one of them critters in Orleans. Know just as much as any [slave]* I got.”
- “There is an ill, Mr. Epps, a fearful ill resting upon this nation. And there will be a day of reckoning yet.”
- “Sin? There is no sin. Man does how he pleases with his property.”
- “I apologize for my appearance, but I have had a difficult time these past several years.”
*Hateful language has been removed
This resource was made possible by the following JCJ Summer Fellows: Eliana Feinstein, Allen Schultz, Maxine Gill, Gibson, López De Huels, and Hannah Brooks.