Ex-slaves, Arthur Wall and Annie Miller, and the Peonage Detective who discovered them, Antoinette Harrell, are set to attend a Baton Rouge, Louisiana premiere of “Alice” on Friday, March 18, 2022. The revenge thriller was inspired by their lives as slaves on Mississippi plantations up until the 1960’s.
Keke Palmer stars in the film as a character inspired by Mae Miller, their now deceased sister. Common is the truck driver who saves and helps her adjust to life off the plantation before she extracts revenge on the cruel plantation owner played by Jonny Lee Miller. The film is written and directed by Krystin Ver Linden who says she was inspired by a People Magazine article written by Bob Meadows in 2007 about the family. The film is produced by Stampede Ventures and Steel Springs Pictures.
“We lived on a plantation run by a white family. We couldn’t leave. If we tried, they would send somebody after you to bring you back or they would kill you,” said Wall.
The United States Justice Department has records verifying the practice of whites holding Black families using torture and threats of murder to keep them in involuntary servitude well into the 20th century. Peonage Detective Antoinette Harrell, who works closely with the family and others, published a book on the government files entitled, “Department of Justice: Slavery, Involuntary Servitude & Peonage”. Harrell met Miller at a genealogy meeting where she was discussing slavery reparations.
“This family is living proof that slavery is not ancient history. I have a long list of other people who tell similar stories. Most of them are struggling educationally, financially and emotionally…just like many descendants of enslaved Africans,” said Harrell.
The family members were plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit for slavery reparations filed in 2002 by Deadria Farmer-Paellmann of the Restitution Study Group against corporations complicit in slavery. While the lawsuit did not end with a financial payout in court, over $120 million in nominal payments were made to community groups and academic institutions. Their 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision created precedence in 2006: “If a company lies about its role in slavery to keep customers, they can be held liable of fraud or consumer fraud,” said Farmer-Paellmann.
Young activists like Friday Jones of Coalition for A Just & Equitable California (CJEC), a California based reparations group, recognize that “Alice” is an opportunity to educate about slavery and why reparations is due. She urges on Twitter: “#Reparationists must support this film in full form.”
“I don’t know what to expect from the film, but I’m glad somebody cared enough to tell the story. We spoke out because we want justice for slavery,” said Wall.
The movie trailer:
A video clip on the Mae Miller/Wall family, the real people behind the story:
A segment about Antoinette, the Peonage Detective who found the family:
The article by Bob Meadows that Krystin says inspired her to do the film:
Decision from the landmark reparations lawsuit — an historic victory!: