The Book of Negroes

Movie review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
The Book of Negroes Movie Poster Image
Riveting slavery epic is artful, sobering, and inspiring.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 265 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The series explores the horrors of slavery but focuses more on the strengths of the main characters' relationship and their shared quest to find freedom. Bad things happen, but the central message is to keep moving forward. The tone is both challenging and inspiring. Courage, humility, and empathy are major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is an exemplary role model for anyone but especially for girls and women. She is intelligent and fiercely independent but also giving and compassionate, and she never allows her enslavement to erode her sense of self-worth. Most villains are obvious.

Violence

Beatings, stabbings, shootings, and some sexual violence (strongly implied but not shown); some blood but not overly gory.

Sex

Sex is simulated with bare skin, but no sensitive parts are shown; implied rape.

Language

Black men and women are referred to as "bucks" and "wenches"; some characters use the "N" word.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Book of Negroes is a standout six-part miniseries chronicling an African woman's quest for freedom after years of enslavement. It views historical events -- and the evils of slavery -- through a realistic and often sobering lens but tends to focus on the main character's strength and resilience rather than on the horrors of her struggles. You'll see violent acts such as stabbings, shootings, and beatings with some blood, along with simulated sex (including implied rape). Some characters drink alcohol. You'll also hear some characters use the "N" word.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKathleen H. February 4, 2017

Educational and factual

This is a excellent educational and factual book of history . The world should never forget the slavery of all our ancestors . A great read and very touching... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byJoy16 December 13, 2016
If under 18 is watching I strongly recommend a adult to be near by, and ready to skip a scene or talk about it. Some material shown is violently strong.

What's the story?

Life is peaceful and full of promise for Aminata Diallo (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon and Aunjanue Ellis) until raiders come to her West African village in 1761, kill her parents, and force her into slavery aboard a ship bound for South Carolina. But Aminata quickly learns that her skills as a midwife and her mastery of languages will be the tickets to her survival on an epic quest for freedom marked by both tragedy and triumph. She eventually finds herself recording names into THE BOOK OF NEGROES, a register of black people who agree to back the British during the American Revolution in exchange for their freedom in Nova Scotia and ultimately become the first black Canadians.

Is it any good?

This miniseries is easily one of the best things to happen to television in quite some time. It's based on Canadian author Lawrence Hill’s award-winning novel of the same name (originally published in the United States under the title Someone Knows My Name). Not only does it tell a compelling story about a little-known aspect of American (and Canadian) history, it also tells it astonishingly well, aided by fine performances, stunning art direction, and a gripping narrative that both inspires and educates.

These days, that's a rare combination, so it goes without saying that The Book of Negroes is an instant classic that's worth your time and attention. But the miniseries' realistic depictions of violence and abuse, although historically accurate, could be too graphic for some younger teens, so be sure to know your kids in advance, and talk to them afterward to help them sort through complex emotions and lingering questions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Book of Negroes' central heroine and her worthiness as a role model. What qualities make Aminata such a compelling character, and what's the source of her power and strength? How does she relate to other characters -- both male and female -- in her world?

  • How does The Book of Negroes compare to other depictions of slavery on TV and in movies, particularly Roots, which was equally groundbreaking in its own time? Does Negroes bring any new ideas to the table? What, if anything, did you see that surprised you?

  • How does Aminata's story relate to the current state of racial affairs in the United States and beyond? How is racism today different from what it was 250 years ago? How much has changed, and has much has stayed the same?

  • How does The Book of Negroes promote courage, humility, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love historical drama

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate