Film highlights ‘groundbreaking’ piece of RI military history

By Kelcy Dolan
Posted 6/2/16

Not only did Rhode Island strike the “first blow for freedom” of the American Revolution with the burning of the Gaspee, but it was host to the nation’s first ever military unit of color.

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Film highlights ‘groundbreaking’ piece of RI military history


Not only did Rhode Island strike the “first blow for freedom” of the American Revolution with the burning of the Gaspee, but it was host to the nation’s first ever military unit of color.

In an era when slavery was law, Rhode Island for a time offered African Americans and Native Americans their freedom in exchange for military service. Just as the Gaspee Affair isn’t widely known in American history, this chapter has been overlooked in many historical texts.

Now, TTS Pictures is hoping to take the story of the First Rhode Island Continental Regiment, known as the Black Regiment, to the big screen.

TTS Pictures is a team of history, film and promotional specialists hoping to popularize Rhode Island’s Revolutionary history and major military contributions. Their first film will be “The Regiment,” focusing on the true story of America’s first unit of color and their five years of military service during the Revolutionary War.

The producers for TTS pictures are director Stephen “Stix” Josey, Tatia Lopez and Dr. Thomas James Mannock.

Josey, who wrote the film’s screenplay and will direct the film, has directed several other films such as “The Hills,” “Gangland” and “Angels Around Me,” the latter of which earned him Best First Time Director honors at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival in 2012.

Lopez is working on the business side of TTS as well as marketing and promotions. She co-founded the Southern New England Association of Black Journalists and continues to be a chair on the board.

Mannock, of Warwick, serves as the historical specialist for the film, as he has spent several decades researching Rhode Island’s military contributions during the Revolutionary War. His interest in the Black Regiment began in 1976 when he read a brief story on the unit during the nation’s bicentennial celebration.

“It has been a highly rewarding journey of historical discovery,” Mannock said. “The story of the transformation of these men from slaves to soldiers was so compelling that I resolved to compile a comprehensive storyline of the regiment’s five years of military service.”

The film will follow the regiment’s recruitment and training, as well as its participation in the battles of Portsmouth, Ponts Bridge, Yorktown and Fort Oswego.

Rhode Island’s James Mitchell Varnum first proposed the initiative to train African Americans and Native Americans as soldiers in late 1777. Alexander Hamilton, Nathanael Greene and George Washington himself supported the plan. The African and Narragansett Indian slaves were sold to the state for military service and were rewarded with their freedom at the conclusion of the war. Christopher Greene, Jeremiah Olney and Samuel Ward were the white officers that oversaw the training and commanded the Black Regiment throughout the Revolutionary War.

TTS Pictures has completed filming for a four-minute preview and is in the process of filming a 30-minute short film to not only gage interest in the project but to find further funding for the epic historical narrative. The hope is that either a major studio will pick up the film or TTS Pictures will receive enough funding to produce a major feature length film.

Mannock said, “Rhode Island played a key role in this conflict that history has largely overlooked. As a state Rhode Island loves its history. We hold it near and dear to our hearts, but it isn’t popularized outside of the state.”

He believes “The Regiment” will spotlight the state and its historical contributions and spark interest in historical tourism.

“I think it’s a missed opportunity for us,” Mannock said. “Allowing these men into the military was a groundbreaking achievement, but it isn’t well known in the American consciousness.”

To help promote the film and interact with key community figures involved in keeping alive Rhode Island’s Revolutionary War history, TTS Pictures has partnered with the Pawtuxet Rangers to host a “Colonial Gathering” at the Pawtuxet Armory this Sunday, June 5, starting at 2 p.m.

Josey hopes to speak with locals willing to share the stories of their ancestors’ service during the Revolutionary War. Josey, along with Mannock and Lopez, will share the screenplay for “The Regiment” with those in attendance. There will also be a screening of the four-minute preview of the film. TTS will discuss the progress of the film and how the local community can become more involved in the project.

For more information on “The Regiment” visit its Facebook page or website, therhodeislandregiment.



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