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.