It seems that BET is trying to step up their programming. Is their new six part miniseries, The Book of Negroes, a step in the right direction?
The Book of Negroes is based on Lawrence Hill’s novel of the same name. The story is about Aminata Diallo, played by the always amazing Aunjanue Ellis, an African woman kidnapped by slave traders in West Africa and sold into slavery in South Carolina. With an unbelievable strength and fortitude, she is able to navigate her way through the American Revolution where she secures her freedom and travels to England to fight for the British army.
The miniseries title may seem off-putting, but the title actually refers to a book of genealogy kept by the British Navy on the slaves who left their captors to serve with the red coats in the Revolutionary War. The book documented each former slave’s country of origin; and when the British lost, they honored their promise to free the African soldiers after the war.
Initially in 2010, the director Clement Virgo attempted to make the story a feature-length film but distributors didn’t think it would sit well with American audiences. Canadian broadcasters decided to make the it into a miniseries. American audiences now seem to be more amenable to slave story movies since 12 Years a Slave took home the Oscar and 4 million viewers tuned in when BET recently aired Roots.
While it might seem like just another slave story, Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays Samuel Fraunces, in the miniseries, says it’s different from anything we’ve ever seen.
“It’s told from a female perspective with a sense of empowerment. Through Aminata’s journey we see the strength of her character. I didn’t know anything about The Book of Negroes, or the slaves participation with the British and upon hearing this–it always upsets me when I hear about something I didn’t know: Like The Tuskegee Airmen, The Book Of Negroes is another upsetting moment for African-Americans, when we have made a positive impact on the building of America, but our history hasn’t been told. Hearing this tale of strength moved me.”
I will definitely be tuning in. Firstly, I love Aunjanue Ellis in any and everything. It seems she is typically underused, but she brings a spirit and fire to even the “smallest” roles and makes herself memorable in each one. Additionally, it’s great that we are getting another movie where a Black woman is in the starring role and the story is told from her perspective. Having recently seen Belle, a compelling and beautiful film, I know that these movies do well and Black actresses deserve to have top billing.
Personally, I’m not tired of “slave movies”. Yes, it was a tragic part of American history where our ancestors seemed to be sad and subservient, but it was a part of American history and our stories deserve to be told – because they can reveal that our ancestors were actually fighters in their own right and defied expectations of the time period. Now, I don’t want to only see slave movies, diversity is good, but it seems like this is a story that needs to be told.
The miniseries will air in February as a part of the Black History Month celebration. I’ll be tuning in. Will you?
Check out the preview below.