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James Earl Jones
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After the American Civil War, many freed slaves head out West in search of free land and a better life. Former slave and Union Army sergeant Buck becomes a self-employed wagon master to wagon trains of freed slaves heading West. Buck knows the region well and he charges fair wages from the wagon trains employing him. He also has a working relationship with the local Indian tribes that charge trespassing fees from the wagon trains heading West across Indian lands. In return, they allow the settlers to move across Indian territory unhindered and to hunt a few buffalo needed to feed the wagon train settlers. However, not everyone in the region is friendly toward the black settlers traveling West. Owners of Southern plantations, dismayed by the loss of slave manpower that previously worked the plantations for free, hire band of white rogues and outlaws to prevent former black slaves from going West. In order to achieve this aim, the hired bands of rogues attack wagon trains and destroy ... Written by
Opening credits prologue: The Civil War was over and by law the slaves were freed. But when the promise of land and freedom was not honored, many ex-slaves journeyed out of the land of bondage in search of new frontiers where they could be free at last.
They placed their hopes in the hands of the few black wagonmasters that knew the territories of the West.
None of this came easy, for for not only did they have to overcome a hostile wilderness, but nightriders and bounty hunters were hired by persons unknown to hunt them down and turn them back to the fields.
This picture is dedicated to those men, women and children who lie in graves as unmarked as their place in history. See more »
Poitier plays Buck, one of few blacks who are qualified to be wagonmasters. It is after the Civil War and he is helping escort former slaves into the west. This is not an easy task. They face nature, bounty hunters, racist settlers, robbers, and Indians. The movie is brutally honest with the hatred that these brave men and women faced, but the film has a strong sense of hope. They are not quitters, they raise money workers for sharecroppers along the way. Harry Belafonte has the most colorful role as The Preacher - a reformed thief who befriends Buck when given no one else to trust. The movie is bleak, yet hopeful, well-acted, and exciting. It deserves to be remembered with the best of westerns from that era. Much more historical importance than its predecessor, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" with its sappy, happiness and handsome boy wonders. And Poitier rivals George Roy Hill as a director any day. Cool folksy-jazz score. Recommended to anyone who enjoys a fresh, historical angle with their westerns.
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