'Emancipation' Producer Walks Red Carpet With ‘Whipped Peter’ Photo, Faces Criticism

Joey McFarland attended the film’s red carpet with the original photograph in hand.

Emancipation producer Joey McFarland is facing backlash after he decided to walk the red carpet at the film's premiere with the original photograph of 'Whipped Peter.'

On Wednesday (Nov. 30), McFarland shared with reporters that he has a “love of history” and curates and owns his own collection of photos of  African Americans from the 19th century.

McFarland told The Hollywood Reporter that he chose to bring the photograph known as The Scourged Back to the premiere so “a piece of Peter” would be with him at the premiere.

“So many people look at this photo and they use it as an emblem of slavery,” McFarland told THR. “It’s a human being. What is his story? Who are his family? What happened to him? So for me it was a deep dive. I hired a great deal of historians; we went deep into the archives and found his identity, we found his backstory, we pieced it together.”

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The Oscar-nominated producer also described himself as a "filmmaker, writer, amateur historian and passionate curator of truth" and noted that he sees the "whipped Peter" as a hero and warrior to the masses, not a victim.

“We don’t need to ignore or hide or cover up the past. We need to protect it. We need to protect those scars, those wounds; we need to have them on full display so we don’t make the same mistakes again,” McFarland continued. “We need to curate the stories, the photographs, the history before it’s lost forever. That’s part of my mission.”

McFarland’s actions quickly received criticism on social media, with Franklin Leonard, the founder of The Black List, sharing his thoughts in a Twitter thread.

“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,” Leonard tweeted.

#OscarSoWhite creator, April Reign, shared her “disgust” after doing a deeper dive on McFarland’s photo collection.

Emancipation stars Will Smith where he plays an escaped enslaved person named Peter, also known as 'Whipped Peter,' because of the whipped markings on his back, was one of the many catalysts of the abolition movement.

The film is currently playing in theaters and will be available for streaming on Apple TV+ on Friday (Dec. 9).

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