‘Emperor’ Review: A Runaway Slave Joins the Raid on Harpers Ferry in Forgotten Tale of Black Heroism

As statues to Confederate heroes are torn down around the country, the question of whom to honor in their place poses an intriguing challenge — one that writer-director Mark Amin seems to have anticipated with his abolitionist adventure movie “Emperor.” Essentially a filmic monument to a scarcely documented American hero, “Emperor” tells the virtually unknown story of Shields Green, a descendant of African royalty who was born into slavery and later escaped, making it to freedom before risking his life in the attack on Harpers Ferry.When history books speak of that famous raid, they tend to focus on John Brown, the white militant who planned the action hoping it would incite a slave uprising in the South — which gives an accurate but incomplete picture.

“Emperor” re-centers the telling, broadening this early “white savior” story to include the Black men who joined the cause — or, in the case of Frederick Douglass,

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