Mandingo Fighting: If you haven’t seen “Django Unchained” and would prefer not to know anything about its plotline, now may be a great time to click away from this website.
Quentin Tarantino’s western-blaxploitation revenge movie centers around Mandingo fighting, in which two (black) slaves engage in a bare-knuckle death match for no other purpose than their white owners’ amusement.
This search for the ideal Mandingo Fighting or wrestler serves as the vehicle Tarantino (who wrote and directed the film) builds the rest of his movie around; however, many historians contend it never actually took place.
According to one expert, no slavery historian we spoke with had ever encountered anything remotely resembling this human version of cockfighting.
Therefore, the idea that Southerners would send off their slaves for execution is logically flawed. Given that slavery’s entire structure was built upon economic necessity, it makes little sense for a slaveowner to willingly sacrifice one of his strongest and healthiest men for sport.
NextMovie references Edna Greene Medford, professor, and chair of Howard University’s history department. However, she has seen no proof of Mandingo fighting either:
“My area of expertise is slavery, the Civil War, and reconstruction; however, I have never come across something like Mandingo Fighting. While it was rumored to have occurred in some backwater areas in the South, there were certainly other events going on that pitted people against one another. While I can’t confirm if it occurred there or not, I have never seen any proof.”
Slate points out that numerous films have utilized Mandingo fighting as a plot device, such as Tarantino’s 1975 masterpiece “Mandingo.”
Tarantino has the freedom to embellish history as he pleases. However, adding color and life to a piece of historical fiction becomes more complex when one suggests the film wasn’t even as violent as slavery was. When criticised for “Django,” Tarantino replied by reminding audiences that slavery was much worse than what is depicted in the film. Via The Guardian:
“We all intellectually ‘know’ about slavery’s brutality and inhumanity, but when you do the research it becomes personal – no longer just historical record – you feel it in your bones. It makes you angry and driven to act; even though some scenes in the movie might seem horrific, much worse actually happened.
” “When slave narratives are depicted on film they often take an arms-length approach… With my film I wanted to break that mold; throw a rock through that glass for all time and bring you right into it.”
It could very well be true that “a lot worse shit actually happened.” Just (probably) not Mandingo fighting.
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