Slavery and the racism surrounding it is a grotesque aspect of the United States, a stain on our country. In Negroes to Hire –which takes it title from advertisement in the Liberty Tribune–Gary Jenkins explores the history of slavery in Missouri before and during the Civil War using oral histories compiled between 1936 and 1938 and extensive research from historians.
Tonight, Jenkins is joined by Dr. Jimmy Johnson whose narrative about his great-grandfather’s experience as a slave, a soldier in the First Kansas Colored Regiment, and landholder after slavery ended provides a major portion of the documentary.
Negroes to Hire is profound and deep, giving insight into the struggle for dignity and freedom that has always been the core of the American Dream, the foundation of which was ironically built by and perverted by slavery. The battles to end slavery, the behavior of slave owners, and the actions of slaves and abolitionists are part of the American story and need to be told.
Negroes to Hire is moving and painful, but at its core offers hope and understanding for our country’s best future by exposing an aspect of its worst past. True tales of families torn apart, sexual abuse, whippings and the struggle to break free and control one’s destiny are brought forth and illustrated with historical documentation, reminding us that these evens happened just 150 years ago.
This film is a stunning example of what independent, inspiration-driven film making can do to inform and inspire.