Reverend Al Sharpton attended a screening of 12 Years A Slave Wednesday evening in NYC and spoke about how the history of slavery in America still permeates today.

Reverend Sharpton and activist and author Kevin Powell hosted the special screening of the film, which included an open discussion following the viewing. Sharpton introduced 12 Years A Slave as a crucial representation of American history.

Sharpton told Uinterview that he sees the film as a portrait of history that can serve to remind viewers of how far society truly has progressed. “When you look at the viciousness and the brutality and the violence of slavery, and look at now we have a black president, and you talk about how far we’ve come, you really see how far we’ve come.”

Sharpton also addressed the film’s raw depiction of the constant physical abuse that occurred in conjunction with the institution of slavery and noted that it is important not to shy away from the horrible details of slavery. “Let’s tell the real story, and we’ll really be repulsed by what we’ve done and rejoice on how far we’ve come,” he told Uinterview.

Still, Sharpton warned against the belief that we have overcome the racism and hatred that was so deeply entrenched in U.S. slavery. “[We have the] vestiges still, of this [racism], in the US. Not as brutally as it was but we are not all the way out of it yet,” he said.

12 Years A Slave, directed by Steve McQueen, tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in the North who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s. The film opens in limited release on Friday, Oct. 18.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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