Amazon announces Black America, an alt-Civil War history series from Will Packer and Aaron McGruder.

In Amazon’s Black America, Freed Slaves Will Get Their Own Piece of the U.S.

In Amazon’s Black America, Freed Slaves Will Get Their Own Piece of the U.S.

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 1 2017 1:21 PM

Amazon’s Post–Civil War Series Black America Will Envision a U.S. Where Freed Slaves Got Their Own Country

ABFF-2017--GIRLS-TRIP-Anatomy-of-a-Scene-Panel-with-Regina-Hall-Will-Packer-and-Malcolm-D-Lee
Will Packer.

Getty Images/Universal

Hollywood projects famously come in pairs, from movies about asteroids to movies about Hercules, and that rule apparently holds true even when it comes to the highly specific subgenre of TV series envisioning an alternate end to the American Civil War. For the last two weeks, HBO and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been dealing with the backlash over the announcement of Confederate, a TV series set in a United States where the South successfully seceded and slavery remains legal below the Mason-Dixon Line. And now Amazon has revealed that it’s planning Black America, a series created by Will Packer and Boondocks cartoonist Aaron McGruder in which, as a form of reparations, black Americans have annexed three former slave states and founded a country of their own called New Colonia.

The description, via Deadline:

Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man franchises, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder. It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.

Black America was first announced in February, but Amazon kept the show’s details under wraps, saying only that it would be vaguely along the lines of The Man in the High Castle. But the controversy over Confederate has prompted the company to show their hand, undoubtedly because the premise of Black America sounds a lot like some of the things that critics behind the #NoConfederate campaign have suggested as possible alternatives.

The Deadline article focuses on the issue of reparations, saying Black America “may have a sense of wish-fulfillment” for, as Packer puts it, “black Americans who are suffering from the effects of slavery in various ways.” But the idea for the series verges on more intriguing terrain yet, suggesting how a U.S. devoid, or at least largely evacuated, of people of color might founder and fail, while the nation of New Colonia prospers.

Packer declined to comment on Confederate directly, but he did tell Deadline that, “the fact that there is the contemplation of contemporary slavery makes it something that I would not be a part of producing nor consuming. Slavery is far too real and far too painful, and we still see the manifestations of it today as a country for me to ever view that as a form of entertainment.”

Sam Adams is a Slate senior editor and the editor of Slate’s culture blog, Brow Beat.