“I wholeheartedly apologize to everyone I have offended by bringing a photograph of Peter to the Emancipation premiere,” he posted on Instagram. “My intent was to honor this remarkable man and to remind the general public that his image not only brought about change in 1863 but still resonates and promotes change today.”
The image, known as “The Scourged Back,” depicts a man named Peter who escaped enslavement with scars on his back after being whipped.
“After uncovering Peter’s origin story with help from diligent historians, I spent the last few years working with the Emancipation creative team in order to bring his story to life so worldwide audiences would have an opportunity to appreciate his heroism,” McFarland explained. “I hope my actions don’t distract from
the film’s message, Peter’s story and just how much impact he had on the world.”
McFarland continued, “Throughout the research and development of Emancipation, I discovered photographs of overlooked and historically important individuals whose stories also needed to be told. One photograph, of Martin Delaney, is on loan to the National Portrait Gallery and currently on exhibit. My plan was always to donate the photographs to the appropriate institution, in consultation with the community, and I believe there is no better time to begin that process than now.”
“These photographs, which existed before me, will be around long after I am gone; they belong to the world. My goal has always been to find the right permanent home and make sure they are accessible, to honor their significance. And most importantly, that the individuals depicted in the photographs are remembered and their stories are told with the greatest dignity and respect,” the statement ended.
Read McFarland’s full statement below.