02/24/10 — Movie tells story of former plantation owner, emancipation

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Movie tells story of former plantation owner, emancipation

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 24, 2010 1:46 PM

Larry Monk's great-grandmother told him stories about a Fayetteville slaveholding family, headed by a man named Archibald Monk, that gave the Monk slave descendants their name.

Now, through research and a little creative license, Monk's company, Fifth Sun Media, has produced a movie about the family, called "Way Over Yonder."

The movie was shot at Waynesborough Historical Village in Wayne County, and used a number of local actors, many of whom have performed at the Center Stage Theatre in Goldsboro.

In honor of Black History Month, the movie is being shown Thursday at Wayne Community College's Moffatt Auditorium.

Students can attend the show for free at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., and the movie showings are also open and free to the public.

Monk and his promotion coordinator, Jane Williford, gathered with a number of the production's actors at the movie's shooting site last week.

Monk said the movie was extensively researched by him and his brother, Larry, who had heard stories about Archibald Monk from their great-grandmother.

"My brother Harry actually wrote the story back in 1992, and I put the script into screenplay form," Larry Monk said. "From what we gathered in the archives, Archibald was a very compassionate man, but kind of conflicted, being the owner of slaves."

Many amateur students of history believe there was a smooth transition from slavery to freedom when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Monk said.

"That's not the case," Monk said, adding that a number of slave owners were reticent to free the people who helped them build their plantations.

Archibald Monk, however, freed his slaves almost immediately, according to family members who talked to the director, who got his family surname from the former slave-owning family.

"I've got to talk and meet different people from Archibald's family, and that was quite interesting to me," Monk said. "That's basically what happened at the end, he acquiesced, and he let his slaves go."

But some of the slaves were not ready to leave.

"Not to give away the plot, but there were some that were loyal that stayed behind," Monk said.

Princeton resident Peggy Jones Hinton played Mrs. Maggie Monk, wife to plantation owner Archibald Monk.

She is constantly engaged in psychological battles with "Mother Monk," Archibald's mother, played by Mary Lou Park, of the Meadow community in Johnston County.

"She (Mother Monk) insults me at every opportunity that she can," Mrs. Jones Hinton said.

Much of the movie revolves around 14-year-old Mackenzie Malham's role as the daughter of Archibald and Maggie Monk.

The women are planning her "cotillion," which meant a debutante ball in the 1800s.

But the movie also speaks to the rough conditions that slaves sometimes faced, even with a compassionate master.

One of the defining lines of the movie, Monk said, is uttered by the character Duggah, played by Will Orr of Goldsboro.

He played the entire role barefoot.

"When you think about it, the significance of shoes, when you think about being a slave and not having anything, and working in the fields through all types of weather -- he sees everybody else with shoes, and he'd like something to protect his feet," Orr said.

When the slaves are released, the character Duggah has one thing on his mind -- shoes.

All of Archibald Monk's slaves used a "pidgin" dialect, a language style that forms when people of two cultures must communicate.

The director's brother, Harry Monk, played the tireless tutor on how the slave characters should speak in that tongue.

Crystal Cogdell of Goldsboro, who played a character named Flossie Mae, described the challenges of learning a new dialect.

"You had to learn it, practice it at home, and I just kept at it," Ms. Cogdell said.

Ms. Cogdell said she learned through her character what the life of a slave might be like.

"(My character) Flossie Mae was kind of irritable, you know, the Mrs. calling her all the time to get her something to drink, and she would take a sip, and she would pour it down on the floor and ask me to get it up.

"I could imagine this going on and on and on, every day, and that was the irritating part," Ms. Cogdell said, adding that she used her frustration to flesh out her character.

Monk said that although Flossie Mae had a minor role, her character was important for what it portrayed.

"The character Flossie Mae was exemplifying the primary discontent of the slaves, the constant work," the director said. "She was kind of being, for lack of a better term, a radical, and the only way that she could protest, or fight back, was through her venting. Given the opportunity, she was capable of hostility."