‘Emancipation’ Trailer: Will Smith Stars in Gripping Film About Runaway Slave’s Journey to Freedom

During the Civil War, a heart-wrenching photo of a man’s scarred back—the result of a brutal whipping—was published in Harper’s Weekly and helped expose the horror of slavery in America. That man in the photo was named Peter, and the photo was taken after he made an incredible escape from slavery and joined the Union Army during the war. Emancipation, a new film from Apple TV, starring Will Smith, tells his story. Antoine Fuqua directed the new film, and the first trailer dropped today. The clip provides a gripping look into Peter’s harrowing, but ultimately triumphant, journey to freedom.


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The trailer opens with Peter being separated from his family. He arrives at a new plantation in chains, and the overseer has harsh words for him: “You walk the earth because I let you,” he snarls. “I’m your God now.”

But Peter is determined to be free and reunite with his wife and children. Despite the cruelty of his captors and the appalling living conditions he’s forced into, he never loses sight of his own dignity and humanity—or his goal.

“Slaves are free,” he says.

He devises a plan: Escape the plantation and cross miles of treacherous, alligator-infested swamp to reach Baton Rouge, LA, where he’ll meet up with the Union Army. He makes the daring escape, but in addition to the natural hazards of the journey, he and his compatriots are also pursued by slave hunters, making their trip even more dangerous.

But thanks to Peter’s bravery and determination, he makes it to his destination, and joins up with the Union Army. The trailer closes with a testament to his strength and spirit.

“They beat me. They whip me. They break the bones in my body more times than I can count,” he says. “But they never, never break me.”

Emancipation will premiere in theaters on Dec. 2, and will be available for streaming on Apple TV+ on Dec. 9.

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