Buck and the Preacher (1972)
In his first directorial opportunity, Sidney Poitier chose a movie set in the late 1860s about newly freed slaves from Louisiana heading west in a wagon train. Beset by a night rider white gang of bounty hunters and racist settlers plus extreme climate challenges, they are weakened and lose some of their group, but led by Buck (Sidney Poitier), their determined Wagon Master and former Union cavalry sergeant, they persist. Poitier was the first African American to direct a western for a major Hollywood studio. Harry Belafonte, his co-star, plays The Preacher, a reformed thief who charms and cons his way into a supportive alliance with Buck. Another twist for its time is the casting of a Native American tribe of horsemen as helpful heroes. Filmed in Durango, Mexico and Kenya, the settings convincingly replicate the conditions of the period, with jazz score by Benny Carter.