The Book of Negroes
By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Riveting slavery epic is artful, sobering, and inspiring.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
The main character is an exemplary role model for anyone, but especially for girls and women. She's 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 & Scariness
Beatings, stabbings, shootings, and sexual violence (rape is strongly implied but not shown). Some blood but not overly gory.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex is simulated with bare skin, but no sensitive parts are shown.
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Black men and women are referred to as "bucks" and "wenches"; some characters use the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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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.
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The Book of Negroes
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Educational and factual
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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' main character and whether she's 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 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 race/racism in the United States and beyond? How much has changed, and how much has stayed the same?
How does The Book of Negroes promote courage, humility, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?
- On DVD or streaming: April 7, 2015
- Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Aunjanue Ellis, Lyriq Bent
- Director: Clement Virgo
- Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors, Bisexual actors
- Studio: Entertainment One
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy, Humility
- Run time: 265 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 26, 2022
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