While HBO is sticking to its Confederate guns, Amazon is working on its own alternate history show that promises to do more than just rehash centuries of black trauma. It’s called Black America.
According to Deadline, Amazon has been at work on Black America for the past year, but the project has received renewed interest as a counterpoint to HBO’s forthcoming Confederate.
The premise of Black America is far bolder than that of Confederate: Rather than imagining a different victor of the Civil War, Black America imagines a world where black people actually received real reparations for 400 years of slavery.
Those reparations come in the form of “New Colonia,” a sovereign black nation made up of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama—states that are typically synonymous with Jim Crow and vicious racial violence.
The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.
Color us shook.
The show would be produced by Will Packer, whose credits include Straight out of Compton, and Boondocks creator and satirist Aaron McGruder.
Confederate, meanwhile, continues to be embroiled in controversy. While show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have had massive success with Game of Thrones, many fans of the show have pointed out that the popular series does a terrible job addressing race. Author Roxane Gay penned a New York Times op-ed calling the show “slavery fan fiction.” Last week, April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, launched a new targeted social media campaign against the show, #NoConfederate. In fact, this past Sunday, the hashtag trended on Twitter during the Thrones broadcast.
Gizmodo’s Charles Pulliam-Moore summed up how Confederate fails to live up to the promise of speculative fiction:
What is there to be learned from seeing black people being enslaved, brutalized, and exploited that we can not already glean from our actual historical record? What is there to be learned about being born into a system in which you are at an immediate social disadvantage that we can’t already cull from decades’-worth of statistical analyses of black peoples’ economic lives? Though black people are now free in America, in very profound and devastating ways, we are still dealing with the fallout of enslavement that manifests itself in a variety of forms systemic inequality. These aren’t the trappings of an alt-history prestige drama. They are our realities.
If Black America does indeed get made, audiences will get a truly bold speculative tale, produced by black people, centered on black American freedom, black American sovereignty, and black American power. It’s about time.