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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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- On DVD or streaming: April 7, 2015
- Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Aunjanue Ellis, Lyriq Bent
- Director: Clement Virgo
- 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
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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