The Book of Negroes: Episode 1
January 25, 2015 1:05 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

CBC's production of Lawrence Hill's acclaimed epic novel begins by introducing 11-year old Aminata Diallo, just as she is stolen from her home in West Africa and forced into slavery.

This episode opens with Amanita helping her mother deliver a baby and walking back to her home village with her. Amanita dreams of being a storyteller -- responsible for keeping the village's oral history. Her father has been teaching her to read and write Arabic, and to find her way home using her knowledge of the local environment. He is worried that people going missing, and insists he will accompany his wife and Amanita on future visits to women in labour. His fears prove well founded. On their next journey to help a woman in labour, the family is attacked, and Amanita is captured. Along with several others, she is forced to march to the ocean, and then onto a slave ship.

Amanita proves to be quick-thinking and resourceful. Her aptitude for languages helps her intervene on behalf of other slaves, and her skills with childbirth earn her a place helping the lecherous ship doctor ... something she turns to her advantage by stealing tools and pieces of metal to be used as weapons by her fellow captives.

[Also of interest, the companion historical guide that provides the historical basis for the story].
posted by chapps (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Companion feature link for viewing on non-tablet.

The companion part has maps and character information, may contain spoilers.
posted by chapps at 1:13 PM on January 25, 2015

I really liked how Amanita's character humanized the enslaved. Wonderful acting.

Despite the high production values, I feel that this is a little more sanitized than really suits a treatment of slavery. Softened by a Canadian perspective's lack of visible still-festering wounds?
posted by porpoise at 3:12 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I liked the exploration of difference in response and tactics... Amanita build allieship with a woman from her village, despite past emnity. And this woman is fierce, cunning and a fighter. When she tells Amanita to resist by living, just before she is executed, I found this very powerful. This woman never gives in.

I agree about the sense of it being sanitized... not sure why it feels that way... Partly I think it might be that they focus on the sense of resistance: the plotting of an attack, the ability of the captured to steal weapons and devise a plan to fight back. They show indignity-- whipping, chains, the cramped quartets, the filth--but the focus is on resilience and resistance.
posted by chapps at 10:53 PM on January 25, 2015

Watching episode 4. I couldn't help tearing up a little during the Book of Negroes scenes.

Awesome costumes!

Very interesting perspective on British loyalist former slaves, in contrast to say Roots and Roots (and currently in development, Roots) which explored life in slavery and eventual emancipation into United States society. Fortunately they didn't completely sanitize the British, who could be just as big of bastards as anyone else.
posted by porpoise at 1:30 PM on February 1, 2015

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