'Emancipation' Producer Apologizes After Backlash Over Bringing Photo of Enslaved Man to Premiere
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Joey McFarland issues an apology after he's criticized for bringing the original photograph of 'Whipped Peter', whose real-life story served as an inspiration for the film starring Will Smith.

AceShowbiz - Joey McFarland regrets drifting the attention at the "Emancipation" premiere with his action. The producer has issued an apology following backlash over bringing a photo of an enslaved man to the special screening of the film about the former slave.

"I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter to the 'Emancipation' premiere," McFarland said in a statement posted to his Instagram page on Sunday, December 4. "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."

"After uncovering Peter's origin story with help from diligent historians, I spent the last few years working with the 'Emancipation' creative team in order to bring his story to life so worldwide audiences would have an opportunity to appreciate his heroism," he explained. "I hope my actions don't distract from the film's message, Peter's story and just how much impact he had on the world."

The 50-year-old filmmaker continued, "Throughout the research and development of 'Emancipation', I discovered photographs of overlooked and historically important individuals whose stories also needed to be told. One photograph, of Martin Delaney, is on loan to the National Portrait Gallery and currently on exhibit. My plan was always to donate the photographs to the appropriate institution, in consultation with the community, and I believe there is no better time to begin that process than now."

"These photographs, which existed before me, will be around long after I am gone; they belong to the world. My goal has always been to find the right permanent home and make sure they are accessible, to honor their significance," the Oscar-nominated producer added. "And most importantly, that the individuals depicted in the photographs are remembered and their stories are told with the greatest dignity and respect."

McFarland was met with widespread criticism after revealing he was carrying the original 1863 photograph of the enslaved man known as "Whipped Peter." The man, whose real name was Gordon, became the inspiration for the film starring Will Smith. The photo, known as "The Scourged Back", shows Gordon's bare back, heavily scourged from an overseer's whippings, and gave the abolitionist movement proof of the cruelty of American slavery.

"I have the photo. This is the original photograph from 1863. I wanted it to be here tonight. I wanted a piece of Peter to be here tonight," McFarland said while speaking to Variety at the Wednesday, November 30 premiere. "Sadly to say, so many artifacts and photographs have not been preserved or curated or respected. And I took it upon myself to curate and build a collection for future generations."

Following McFarland's action, #OscarsSoWhite creator April Reign and The Black List founder Franklin Leonard expressed distress and "disgust" at the producer's decision to show off the photo, which McFarland said in a video that he brought so "a piece of Peter" would be with him.

Leonard questioned the producer's interest in collecting artifacts related to enslaved black Americans. "Why do you own the photograph? Why did you bring it to a movie premiere if the intent is to preserve it respectfully? You wanted 'a piece of Peter' here? You collect slave memorabilia that will be donated upon your death? What do you do with it in the meantime? So many questions," he tweeted at the time.

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