Among Kings by Joey O'Connor | Script Revolution

Among Kings

In 1890, missionary explorers William Sheppard and Samuel Lapsley risk everything to save the Congo nation, forcing the first international human rights trial between Belgium and America.



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The Among Kings novel by Joey O'Connor

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After years of battling racism in his church, in 1890, African American William Sheppard ventures to the Congo Free State with his white missionary co-worker, Samuel Lapsley. William leaves behind his musically gifted fiancée, Lucy Gantt, and goes with Lapsley deep into the “white man’s graveyard” in the Congo. They face treacherous rivers, wild animals, cannibal tribes, and evil Belgian State men. Enflamed by ravenous greed for ivory and rubber, King Leopold II has taken personal possession of the Congo with his campaign of Civilization, Commerce, and Christianity. His mercenary Force Publique army and the Zappo Zap cannibal tribe enslave millions. When the missionaries discover Leopold’s treachery, they are forced with the agonizing decision: do we advance or retreat home?

The green missionaries throw all in with Shamba, a young guide with a mysterious past. Traveling by steamboat 1,000 miles up the Congo River to establish their mission, the three confront a slave caravan and rescue the beautiful Vwila. Lapsley contracts the fatal blackwater fever and suddenly dies. Overwhelming grief leads William into the arms of Vwila. William and Shamba soon search for the dangerous Kuba Kingdom, where the Kuba king threatens William’s life. Shamba’s past is revealed when William learns of his family’s slaughter by the Zappo Zaps. For his Kuba discovery, William is inducted into the Royal Geographic Society. After tea with Queen Victoria, William returns to America as a hero and finally marries Lucy. Facing withering racism with new Jim Crow laws, the furious and offended William goes to his mentor, Booker T. Washington, seeking advice. Booker T. and William debate what is more dangerous: America or Congo?

William chooses to return to the Congo with Lucy and new Black missionaries. When they arrive, they discover the mission has been destroyed! When Vwila and sixty other women are taken captive by the Zappo Zaps, William goes with Shamba to secure Vwila’s release. In the Zappo Zap camp, William risks his life to photograph slaughtered men and women in the camp. William and Shamba return to the mission to find another missionary’s wife deathly ill. They search for quinine, leading to her recovery. Lucy forgives William.

William writes an urgent letter, then sends the letter and photos to Edmund Morel, an investigative journalist in London, who begins to campaign against Leopold. Evidence in hand, Morel recruits the luminaries of his day (Mark Twain, W.E.B Du Bois, Joseph Conrad, William Cadbury, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) to launch worldwide protests against the Belgian king. Leopold lashes back at William with a slander lawsuit, culminating in the first international human rights trial.

At the trial, William’s witnesses have not arrived. In Belgium, Leopold undergoes an operation for stomach cancer. Shamba finally arrives at the trial with the Zappo Zap witnesses. William’s acquittal is finally announced. Leopold suddenly dies after learning of William’s victory. William is free. His marriage is restored. The world is made right.

All Accolades & Coverage: 

Top 3% Coverfly Red List - Historical Television
Top 10 - Historical/Biopic - Table Read My Screenplay Genre Competition 2022
Semifinalist, ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship 2021
Quarterfinalist, The Script Lab - TSL Free Screenplay Contest 2022
Quarterfinalist, ScreenCraft TV Pilot Script Competition 2021

Listen to the Among Kings pitch by Joey O'Connor
Submitted: August 19, 2022
Last Updated: August 22, 2022

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The Writer: Joey O'Connor

Joey O’Connor was raised by fourth-generation morticians and lived to tell about it. His emotionally moving stories reflect authentic characters who overcome obstacles as they navigate the high-stakes challenges of love, desire, grief, and loss. His award-winning pilot, Among Kings , ranks in the Top 3% on Coverfly's Red List - Historical Television (co-written with Ken Straw). Joey is the author of 22 published books and screenplays. He lives in San Clemente, where he loves to go to the beach, read, and fall asleep. Joey is also an Ironman athlete who lives with the intimate knowledge that writing is an endurance sport. Go to bio
Law Firm: Law Firm of Samuel Curphey
Lawyer: Samuel Curphey

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