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Cedarville professor Dr. Mark Caleb Smith on a television newscast.

Freedom Takes Center Stage in "Union Bound"

by Ryan Bower, Assistant Director of Public Relations

A journey to freedom is the story at the center of the motion picture “Union Bound,” which will premiere in major markets nationwide on April 22, thanks in part to the work of several Cedarville University alumni.

Michael Davis, 1990 graduate of Cedarville, served as producer for the film, which tells the incredible tale of a Union soldier’s flight to freedom during the Civil War. He was joined on set by production assistants Harriet Coates, Brian Erickson, David Sickler and Bradley Van Strien, all of whom graduated in 2015.

Davis is the founder and CEO of Uptone Pictures Inc., an award-winning multimedia entertainment company that specializes in feature films and television.

The movie follows the real-life story of Joseph Hoover, who was captured by Confederate forces at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. 

Hoover, whose personal diaries served as the inspiration for the film, spent time at the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia before escaping from another facility in Florence, South Carolina.

After escaping with a fellow Union solider, Hoover was led back to freedom by the very people he was fighting to free, as groups of slaves along the Underground Railroad provided him with safety and escape routes.

“It’s a beautiful story of a man who, in his quest to free others, became imprisoned himself,” said Davis. “Through that experience he’s able to truly appreciate what it means to be freed, which has a profound impact on his life.”

The movie was filmed at Stagville plantation in Durham, North Carolina. Stagville was one of the largest plantations in the American South, home to nearly 900 enslaved African-Americans in 1860.

Davis, who earned a degree in communications at Cedarville, noted that the timing of the film’s release is significant, as February is Black History Month across the United States.

“The true heroes of “Union Bound” aren’t the Union soldiers,” said Davis. “It’s the slaves who helped them escape via the Underground Railroad. We’ve been blessed with a unique opportunity to tell the story of those heroes.” 

The film will also be screened at locations around the country as part of a roadshow-style tour. Each screening will include a Q-and-A with the film’s producers as well as artifacts from the Civil War, including Joseph Hoover’s diary. Several Civil War historians will also join the tour to discuss the historical background of the film.

“Union Bound” has been recognized with awards from both the IndieFest International Film Festival and the Marina Del Rey Film Festival.

A companion book to the film is schedule to be released in May. 

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,711 undergraduate, graduate and online students in more than 100 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit

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