Who was “Peter whipped”, the slave hero with the impressive scar that shocked US soldiers?

The story of a man who went from being a slave to fighting against his oppressors will be starred by Will Smith. The actor 54 years old will play “Peter whipped” or “Whipped Peter”, as he is known for being a victim of the most atrocious humiliations during forced labor on a plantation in the United States.

His struggle became a banner of the emancipation movement and He is still remembered for a shocking image that exhibits the pain of torture.

This was the image that impacted thousands of people during the Civil War in the United States in 1863, the back of "whipped peter"a slave who escaped from his oppressors
This was the image that shocked thousands of people during the Civil War in the United States in 1863, the back of “Peter whipped”, a slave who escaped from his oppressorsLibrary of Congress – Library of Congress

The keloid scars that covered Gordon’s back, his real name, when underwent a physical upon arrival at a Union Army camp in March 1863, they were the strongest argument against the defense of slavery as a form of economic survival in the midst of the Civil War. The African-American man arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after ten days of walking without shoes and practically without clothes, crossing all kinds of terrain with the firm conviction of recovering his freedom.

Before facing that winding road, Gordon had suffered slavery at the hands of John and Bridget Lyons on a plantation about 12 kilometers away in that state. But the beating had been received from Artayou Carrier, whom he recognized as the planting foreman in his first testimonies to the soldiers who were horrified to see the traces of cruelty.

Recovering from the injuries that left him bedridden for two months and almost took his life, he decided to escape and was joined by three other oppressed, but not all ran with the same fortune of being received in the camp. One of them was killed by slave catchers on the way. There is information that ensures that the Lyons had under their command 40 slaves.

Testimonies compiled from manuscripts of the time and taken up by History report that when Gordon uncovered his back, it elicited two opposite reactions: “It sent a shiver of horror through every white person present, but the few blacks who were waiting… paid little attention to the sad spectacle, scenes so terrible they were painfully familiar to all”.

The history of American slavery was summed up in a photograph that exposed the brutality of racism. The author of the image was Mathew Brady and they made the decision to take it to the pages of the most widely read medium of the time Harper’s Weekly to amplify the freedom message, a couple of months after Abraham Lincoln signed and issued the Emancipation Proclamation that ordered the freedom of slaves.

The photograph went so far and hit so deep that, from a faction that opposed the liberation, they tried to spread the rumor that it was fake.

Little information is known about the course of Gordon’s life, who after being rescued he made the decision to join the army in the Civil War, as other African-Americans joined.

Will Smith returns to the cinema in December after the controversial slap to Chris Rock at the Oscars

emancipation is the title of the film starring Will Smith, directed by African-American director Antoine Fuqua, which will soon be released in some theaters and through the streaming service AppleTV+.


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