Slaves (1969) Poster


Ossie Davis: Luke


  • MacKay : [in a room filled with African artifacts, he is addressing owners and attendant servants]  We'd better all understand this darkie we own, gentlemen. He's the only self-reproducing machine in the world. Gotta know how to run it. I first met him in Africa, as a young man, when I ran a ship in the illegal slave-running trade, before I settled down here in the very legal, slave-driving, cotton trade.

    MacKay : [to the servants]  Boys, attend to the gentlemen.

    MacKay : [he continues]  I packed blacks into my ship until you couldn't walk the decks. Every morning we threw the dead and the rebellious overboard. They were not easy those voyages. But we could turn a profit if we got 40% of them here alive.

    MacKay : [he continues]  My library is always at your disposal. Volumes on all the aspects of human slavery. But I can spell it for you in this one, magnificent sculpture or in one story which tells all one needs to know about the human being, in slavery or out. In the African trade, I met an old chief. I bought many of his people from him. Discussing handling slaves, he said "Captain, in the soul of a free man, a little slavery and a lot weigh the same. So they do in the soul of a slave. So when you chain him, just as well chain him firm." Brilliant man! He was as black as coal. He'd find your views, Mr. Bennett, romantic; dangerous.

    MacKay : [he continues]  I know you all wonder why I keep these things in my house. They make you uncomfortable. Me too. That's why I keep them here. Ivory, stone, wood, bronze.

    MacKay : [to Luke]  Don't gawk, boy. Get that tray filled. Boy! Did you hear me?

    Luke : Yes, Master.

    MacKay : Don't talk back to me. Replenish the tray.

    MacKay : [he continues]  I just ordered a darkie out of this room. Do you know anything about him? From his facial characteristics, his people probably came from the Songhai tribe, the area around Timbuktu. Three hundred years ago, they had a university there where the most delicate operations were performed for cataracts of the eye. People came from all over the world to have their sight restored by these extraordinary, black surgeons. I believe origins can crop up even after ten generations - unless they get weeded out. What do we create? Surgeons? Sculptors? Or niggers?

  • Luke : "Luke", you said, "I trust you. Take these horses up into Ohio and bring me back the money. And then I'll make you free". As God is my judge, Master, that's what you said.

    Mr. Stillwell : And that's what I meant.

    Luke : And I turned my back on freedom, walked back into slavery, back into hell, cos' you trusted me and I trusted you. And now you're telling me, I'm sold.

    Mr. Stillwell : I'm as helpless as you.

    Luke : But you ain't sold, Master. Say something about that.

    Mr. Stillwell : There's nothing I can say.

    Luke : But there's got to be something you can say, Master. I come back!

    Luke : If there's nothing to be said, Master, then go.

    [Stillwell leaves] 

    Luke : Lord, what have I done wrong?

See also

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