What Critics Are Saying About ‘The Book of Negroes’ Miniseries, Which Premieres Tonight on BET

By Tambey A. Obenson, Shadow and Act at indiewire.com

Earlier this month, I wrote and published a piece on BET’s first-ever chances at Emmy nominations this year with 2 scripted series in “Being Mary Jane” and “The Book of Negroes.”

book-of-negroes posterThe jury is still out on the former, but, based on reviews I’ve read thus far about the latter, Emmy recognition might be within grasp. Even if not a win, at least a nomination, whether for the miniseries as a whole, or for its star, Aunjanue Ellis, who is receiving much praise for her performance, essentially carrying the show.

It’s finally here, almost 2 years after the project’s initial announcement – BET launches its first-ever event miniseries “The Book of Negroes,” a six-part historical drama in the tradition of “Roots,” based on Lawrence Hill’s award-winning, Oprah Winfrey-listed novel (known in the United States as “Someone Knows My Name”). The highly anticipated television event will run over the course of three consecutive nights in two-hour installments, starting tonight, Monday, February 16, 2015 at 8 PM ET/PT.

Director Clement Virgo’s adaptation stars Aunjanue Ellis as Aminata Diallo, abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in Sierra Leone (West Africa), is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina, and years later, forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes” – an actual document that provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own.

That this is a story told solely from the perspective of a woman, separates it from most slave narratives.

“It’s a universal story of a legendary woman. There’s loss, a long journey and triumph,” said Debra L. Lee, CEO of BET Networks. “It’s very exciting for us for ‘Book of Negroes’ to be our first miniseries… My vision for BET is to be a well-rounded network. There are so many stories in our culture to tell, and I’m so proud of this. I’m hoping that it’s ‘Roots’ for a younger generation.”

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