12 December 2000 | johnnyb-10
an excellent history lesson masquerading as fantasy
Petty street hustler T.J. finds himself transported from present-day Detroit to 1822 Charleston, South Carolina. He is captured and sold at a slave auction to a plantation owner "Master Cooper."
T.J. is at first arrogant and blissfully ignorant of the struggle for freedom that African-Americans valiantly faced and overcame, and the legacy the brave souls who put their lives on the line (and who sometimes lost those lives) left to those who still fight the ongoing battle for civil rights and equal opportunity.
That all changes after T.J. unintentionally gets a young slave he has befriended beaten brutally for one of his own backfired stunts. He helps the young slave learn to read and write and then helps the young man and his wife-to-be escape the Cooper Plantation. Although it is never stated, I got the distinct impression these young runaways were T.J.'s direct ancestors.
In his humbling experience/history lesson, T.J. also meets real-life hero Denmark Vesey, a freed former slave who leads a slave revolt, and is hanged with his co-conspirators, becoming a martyr to the cause of freedom.
Gifted comic actor Phill Lewis ("City Slickers") is both funny and touching as T.J. Carl Lumbly ("How Stella Got Her Groove Back," "Men of Honor") was properly dignified as the unforgettable Vesey. Lumbley's real-life wife, Vonetta McGee, sparkles as the house slave and psychic Motilla, who turns out to be T.J.'s spiritual guide through his surreal and harrowing experience. Frank Converse, who has made a career playing corrupt cops, crime bosses and other unsympathetic types, was properly cast as Master Cooper, who despite his brutality, was probably a more compassionate slave owner than most.
This is an excellent history lesson masquerading as fantasy, and should be a staple in junior high and high schools for Black History Month.