Slavery is a dreadful institutions that has been a part of the human condition for centuries. In the United States, Africans were removed from their homelands, dragged onto ships and taken to become slaves in the South. In biblical times, Jews were enslaved by ancient Egyptians. In many cases, slave owners engaged in unspeakable behavior toward the unfortunate individuals held in slavery. Here are six of the most despicable slave owners in film and TV history.
Ames, "Roots" (1977)
This is the epic television story that brought the “mini-series” into vogue. “Roots” showed how slaves were kidnapped, transported and then forced to labor for slave owners. Ames (Vic Morrow) was a particularly vicious slave owner who whipped slave Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) when he refused to take his slave name of Toby. Ames used a painful whip on Kinte’s back to try and get him to say the words “My name is Toby,” but the slave refused to give in.
Ruiz and Montes, "Amistad" (1997)
Ruiz (Geno Silva) and Montes (John Ortiz) are the owners of the slave ship Amistad. They capture and transport native Africans from their homelands and take them in chains to the southern United States so they become slaves. In this movie Cinque (Djimon Honsou) is able to pick a lock so he can get out of his chains while being transported across the Atlantic Ocean. That allows him to start a revolt aboard the ship that ultimately allows those particular slaves to win their freedom.
Warren Maxwell, "Mandingo" (1975)
Warren Maxwell (James Mason) is the owner of a plantation that is run down and falling apart. Maxwell knows that the only asset he has is his slaves, and he wants to train them to become fighters. One of those slaves is Mede (boxer Ken Norton) who is brutalized as he becomes a fighter to represent Maxwell. When he is not training, he beds down Blanche Maxwell (Susan George), the wife of Hammond Maxwell (Perry King).
Simon Legree, "Uncle Tom’s Cabin" (1927)
Simon Legree (George Siegmann) is the character considered to be among the most vicious slave owners of all-time. Legree was known for his desire to break every slave of his will. This includes Uncle Tom (James B. Lowe), who has a fervent religious belief that he will not give up despite Legree’s insistence. He orders that Tom has to be whipped to death for his beliefs.
Rameses, "The Ten Commandments" (1956)
Rameses (Yul Brynner) is the pharaoh of ancient Egypt. He keeps the Jews enslaved and forces them into a life of hard labor and makes them build the Egyptian pyramids. Many of the Jews die while laboring under the lash of the Egyptian supervisors who keep them working in hellish conditions. Rameses will not let the Jews go despite the insistence of Moses (Charlton Heston), who eventually shows Rameses the error of his ways.
Miss Watson, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1974)
Jim (Rex Ingram) is a runaway slave who is trying to get away from slave owner Miss Watson (Clara Blandick). Knowing that she'll sell him down river to a cruel bunch of abusive slave owners, Jim teams up with Huckleberry Finn to sail away and get his freedom.