Chains Across America

Thien Ngo





My selected cultural artifact is Django: Unchained by Quentin Tarantino. Django presents the story of a bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz. Dr. King is a former dentist that wants to hunt down the Brittle Brothers. On his quest to find the Brittle Brothers, Schultz requires the assistance of Django, who the Speck Brothers are transporting across the south to be sold off in a slavery auction block. Django happens to know the faces of the Brittle Brothers because he was once a worker on their plantation, which makes him a valuable asset on his conquest to hunt them down. The Speck Brothers refused to sell Django to Schultz. This disagreement culminated in a shoot out between the Brothers and the bounty hunter. The clash ended with the death of one of the Speck brothers. Since Schultz considers himself an honorable man, he paid the remaining Speck brother the original cost of Django. This disaster could’ve been avoided if they had sold Schultz the slave he requested. However, the fights throughout the movie could be part of Hollywood’s plan to attract more viewers.


Django drew my attention because of the action packed shooting scenes scattered throughout the movie. The movie presents the history of slavery in a satiric form. The movie also displays multiple aspects of slavery from: the selling slaves, enforcement of slave codes, the transportation of slaves, and the socialization of slavery. There are a lot of aspects of slavery that are hidden in the movie if you pay close enough attention. There is a huge amount you might not notice the first time because Django and Schultz take up the spotlight the entire movie. When I watched Django: Unchained the second time, it gave me a sense of what slavery looked like in the 1850’s before the Civil War. Jamie Foxx and Leonardo Dicaprio star as the main characters. These two are amazing actors and I know one from some of their past movies like the Wolf of Wall Street. Director Tarantino Quentin turned a simple story of saving a loved one from an antagonist into a complex plot with multiple subplots that make the entire movie entertaining from start to finish.

Director Quinten Tarantino was born in Tennessee. His love of movies landed him a job at the Video Archives in his early 20’s writing scripts. In 1992, he made his first directorial debut with the movie Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino had early success with his film Pulp Fiction, which made 108 million dollars in the box office. Some of his movies are: Inglourious Basterds, and the Kill Bill series. His inspiration to make Django:Unchained came from his passion of making films and his natural desire as a director.

The creation of Django: Unchained was produced December 25, 2012 and filmed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Since Django is a movie, it doesn’t have a significant impact on African Americans because it wasn’t created during that time period. The first movie picture film was created in 1895, which is decades after the end of slavery.  Unlike other cultural artifacts like songs, foods, and tools… movies usually reflect books, stories, or past historic events like slavery in North America.

Django: Unchained encompasses the history of slavery in a two-hour jam packed western shooting movie about a hired slave trying to save his beloved wife from a slave owner. Some of the aspects of slavery the movie reflects are: slave codes, socialization of slavery, domestic slave trade, brutal punishment of slaves, racism, Ku Klux Klan, destabilization of family kinship-ties, and the priority to maximize profit. Slave codes are seen in the movie through a scene in which Django is wandering around a town and was stopped by a white man. As Django is a black champion of justice, the white man demanded his slave pass. The slave code requires all black slaves have to be accompanied by a white person or need to carry a pass from the owner. Racism filled the entire movie because the slaves were repeatedly called “nigger” or “negroes” by whites. Brutual punishments were occurring left and right in the movie. There were scenes where slaves were lynched and whipped for not obeying masters. Masters didn’t care about the well being of slaves because they were treated as property and not human beings. Slave owners were driven by profit, and this reflected in the movie when Django was separated from his wife because his master sold him off to make more money. Domestic slave trade was occurring often because the transatlantic slave trade was banned. Plantation owners relied on the domestic slave trade to get their source of labor. The significance of the movie remains because it was created in Hollywood. This means that the movie doesn’t necessary reflect the whole truth of slavery, but only enough to where it could be tied in with the movie. Django: Unchained is an action packed thriller for a reason and if it wasn’t; it’d be called a documentary, which is actually a reflection of history that is actually based on real record events.

An amazing event that this movie connected me with was the domestic slave trade. It’s intriguing because we spent so much time in class talking about it, and it changed my perspective on the slave trade as a whole. Originally I thought the Transatlantic Slave Trade was the biggest transportation of slaves in the world, and just the fact that 10-11million slaves were transported was amazing enough. But, as I learned in the class lectures for African American Ethnic Studies … America also had the largest recorded domestic slave trade in the world to date. I couldn’t fathom the fact that slave traders were able to transport so many slaves in such a short amount of time up until the year 1861 which was the start of the Civil War. 12 Years A Slave, which was shown in class was actually based on the story of an actual slave that was once free and later sold back into slavery. Plat experienced the many prejudices against blacks because he was a black man who couldn’t produce the papers that prove he was free. During the movie, Plat was a part of the domestic slave trade because he was sold back into slavery.

The knowledge I gained from this course helped me unpack the complexities of Django: Unchained. Class lectures gave me inside information about aspects of slavery I wouldn’t have notice in the movie if I didn’t learn them in class. For example, the motivations of slave traders to sell and hire out slaves. The emerging Ku Klux Klan and why they came to be a hate group toward blacks. The cruel reality of how slaves and blacks were treated in general. They weren’t even respected as human beings, but as property that slave owners can dispose of as they pleased. Slaves had no rights whatsoever and the laws supported slavery entirely. The readings assigned included many anecdotes of past slaves that explained the hardship they had to endure. As well as the cruelty and exploitation they were exposed to as slaves by their owners. Accounts of family-kinship being broken up because masters were able to do as they pleased with their “property”. All of these realities of slavery presented in Django:Unchained  became clear because of the proper knowledge of slavery available to me from this course.









Works Cited “Quentin Tarantino Biography.” A&E Networks


Television, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.


Django Unchained. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Perf. Jamie Foxx. Columbia

            Pictures, 2012. Film.

Django Unchained. IMDb., n.d.

Web. 19 Nov. 2015.







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