BET Networks is turning the controversial novel The Book of Negroes into a miniseries.
The story centers on Aminata Diallo, an African woman who is taken by slave traders from West Africa to South Carolina. It follows her through the American Revolution in New York, the isolated refuge of Nova Scotia and the jungles of Sierra Leone, before she ultimately secures her freedom in England in the early 1800s.
“We are excited to partner with Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Entertainment and Entertainment One on this historic project and to bring the acclaimed Book of Negroes to life for the BET audience,” said Loretha Jones, president of original programming at BET Networks.
Production on The Book of Negroes will start in South Africa in the fall.
The novel was initially published in the Canadian and U.K. markets with its original title, The Book of Negroes, but due to historical sensitivity the title was changed to Somebody Know My Name when published in the U.S.
Somebody Know My Name was included amongst Oprah’s top summer reads for 2010 in O Magazine.
In 2011 Hill’s book sparked heated debates abroad. A Dutch group torched the cover of The Book of Negroes as a protest against the novel’s title. The group, known as the Foundation to Honor and Restore Victims of Slavery in Surinam, vowed to burn copies of the book in an Amsterdam park unless its name was changed.
Hill’s novel is based on the historical document “The Book of Negroes,” which was created by British naval officers in 1783, near the end of the American revolutionary war. It was a list of 3,000 African-American slaves who were considered British loyalists and hoped to escape from New York to Canada, and thus to freedom. The British insisted that only those who were listed in “The Book of Negroes” could travel, and created a ledger to name, and seemingly describe, each person.
Canadian film maker Clement Virgo is said to be on-board to direct The Book of Negroes.
The Book of Negroes will air stateside on BET and on CBC in Canada.
Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter for more Entertainment news at @WitherspoonC