Freedom Road

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For the U.S. Marxist organization, see Freedom Road Socialist Organization.
Freedom Road
GenreHistorical mini-series
Based onFreedom Road
by Howard Fast
Directed byJan Kadar
StarringMuhammad Ali
Kris Kristofferson
Executive producer(s)Zev Braun
Producer(s)Leland Nolan
Chet Walker
CinematographyCharles Correll
Original networkNBC
Original releaseOctober 29 (1979-10-29) –
October 30, 1979 (1979-10-30)

Freedom Road was a 1979 American TV historical drama mini-series starring boxer Muhammad Ali and Kris Kristofferson, based on the 1944 novel by Howard Fast and directed by Jan Kadar. Running for four hours, it was first broadcast on NBC on October 29 and 30, 1979.[1]


Ali plays ex-slave Gideon Jackson, a former Union soldier who returns to his home in South Carolina following the American Civil War and ultimately becomes a U.S. senator. The film and Fast's novel are based on a true story, but they take a number of liberties. (Jackson was also the inspiration for the villain in D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation.)[2]

Initially representing black ex-slaves at the state's constitutional convention, Jackson is elected to the state legislature and eventually to the U.S. Senate despite opposition from white landowners, law enforcement, and the Ku Klux Klan. Kristofferson plays sharecropper Abner Lait, who helps Jackson unite former slaves and white tenant farmers.[1]


The cast also included Barbara O. Jones (as Jackson's wife), Ron O'Neal, Edward Herrmann, John McLiam (as Ulysses S. Grant), Sonny Jim Gaines, Joel Fluellen, Grace Zabriskie and Alfre Woodard. It was narrated by Ossie Davis.

It was the final film of director Jan Kadar, who died in June 1979. It had a $7 million budget and was filmed around Natchez, Mississippi because of the historic property in the area.[3]

Critical reaction[edit]

The St Petersburg Times found that Ali was not entirely convincing but showed potential and that his quiet performance failing to convey Jackson's charisma.[4] The Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors calls it "intermittently compelling".[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ali Makes Acting Debut In 'Freedom Road'". The News and Courier (Charleston, SC). October 27, 1979. p. 28-D. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  2. ^ Erickson, Hal. "Freedom Road". New York Times/Rovi. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  3. ^ "Ali does 'Roadwork' on 'Freedom Road'". Ebony. October 1979. pp. 102–106. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  4. ^ Ely, Robert (October 29, 1979). "'Freedom Road', Ali Wins Limited Success". St Petersburg Times. Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  5. ^ Roberts, Jerry. Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. p. 292.

External links[edit]