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Amazon Announces Alt-History 'Black America,' Shows HBO How It's Done

By Tori Preston | Industry | August 1, 2017 |

By Tori Preston | Industry | August 1, 2017 |

We’ve talked at length about the controversy surrounding HBO’s Confederate, the alt-history drama that the premium cable channel has in development, which envisions a South where slavery is legal. But it turns out the idea of a southern secession is a topic that HBO won’t be tackling alone. Deadline reports that Amazon has been working on its own original take on the concept for over a year — only instead of focusing on slavery, Black America will present an alternate vision of America where freed African Americans received their own southern states as reparations for slavery.

Black America is being produced by Will Packer (Girl’s Trip, Straight Outta Compton) and written by the Peabody Award-winning creator of The Boondocks, Aaron McGruder. In the series, freed slaves were given the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama during the post-Reconstruction era, and with it the freedom to determine their own future. The new sovereign nation, called New Colonia, has had a predictably contentious relationship with the rest of the United States — sometimes as bloody enemies, sometimes as allies. The show will pick up the story of New Colonia in a period of peace with the U.S., and while the nation has experienced growth and prosperity, its neighbor to the North has been sliding into decline. Though divided, the fate of both nations are intertwined.

The show will be a drama, and has hired historians as consultants to make sure the premise is as realistically presented as possible. But with McGruder writing it, it’s fair to anticipate a certain amount of sardonic humor. Packer wouldn’t comment on the message of Black America since it’s still being developed, though he did hint that the show would be examining what communities would look like, and how that co-existence would be affected by reparations as opposed to where they stand today without them. Ultimately, he said, the show “will speak to where we are now and the mistakes this country has made and things we should do going forward.”

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And while the announcement of Confederate may have prompted the creators to step forward with their long-gestating project, Packer was careful not to comment directly on the HBO project because it hasn’t actually been made yet. He did indicate that generally, the concept of modern slavery was one that he had no interest in producing or or even watching. “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.”

Is that a slap I just heard? I think… yeah, that was a slap (SHUT UP, BYRD. NO ONE ASKED YOU).

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Tori Preston is deputy editor of Pajiba. She rarely tweets here but she promises she reads all the submissions for the "Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything" column at [email protected]. You can also listen to her weekly TV podcast, Podjiba