Joey McFarland, a producer for Emancipation, has apologized for bringing the original photograph of “Whipped Peter” to the film’s premiere. The image shows the wounds of an escaped slave and helped turn white Northerners against slavery.
“I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter to the ‘Emancipation’ premiere,” McFarland wrote on Instagram.
He further wrote: “My intent was to honor this remarkable man and to remind the general public that his image not only brought about change in 1863 but still resonates and promotes change today.”
In the film, Will Smith plays a character that is based on the real, “Whipped Peter." He says the character, in particular, was a big reason he chose to work on the movie.
“This is a film about the heart of a man. What could be called the first viral image,” Smith explained, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Cameras had just been created, and the image of whipped Peter went around the world. It was a rallying cry against slavery, and this was a story that exploded and blossomed in my heart that I wanted to be able to deliver to you in a way that only Antoine Fuqua could deliver.”
Antoine Fuqua directed the film. His other credits include Training Day, The Equalizer, and more.
Emancipation is playing in select theaters before it hits AppleTV+ on December 9, 2022. It is Will Smith's first major role since slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars.
Check out Joey McFarland’s full apology below.