amazon black america

To say that Confederate, the HBO alt-history series being developed by Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, has stirred up some controversy would be an understatement. It hit a raw nerve on issues of racism and slavery that are still felt today. But as a show that isn’t even in development yet, there are only so many outraged tweets and hot takes people can write before we resign to the fact that this series is happening despite the many red flags that have popped up around it.

To that Amazon says: No. The streaming service is developing its own alt-history series as a clear antithesis to Confederate called Black America, in which freed slaves have been granted the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery. Whew, that is some next-level subtweeting.

The Amazon Black America series has been in development at the streaming service for a year, according to Deadline. The series is being created by producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder.

Here’s the premise of Black America per Deadline:

“It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. 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.”

While the project has been in development for over a year, and indeed, it was announced that a Packer/McGruder project was being made back in February, it was HBO’s announcement of Confederate that spurred Amazon and the Black America team to reveal their project to the public.

“It felt this was the appropriate time to make sure that audiences and the creative community knew that there was a project that preexisted and we are pretty far down the road with it,” Packer told Deadline.

Packer and McGruder will be bringing on historians to consult on the project to tell the story in an “accurate and responsible way.” Packer said this was important because, “even though the story is set in contemporary society, not post-slavery, it relies on us being factually correct in telling the story of how we got to a contemporary society where you’ve got a sovereign country that is run by black Americans.” Even in this alternate society, Packer said there will be black Americans suffering from the effects of slavery.

It does surprise me that Packer and McGruder had been working on this project for more than a year, which means this show isn’t really a reaction to Confederate. But the premise is so connected to Confederate‘s — a different outcome to the Civil War would bring about an all-black sovereign country versus a sovereign country in which slavery still exists — that it’s hard for me to imagine the two shows hadn’t heard of each other in the development process. Or I could be drawing a conspiracy where there isn’t one, and both shows could merely be based on the new phenomenon of alt-history shows like The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaid’s Tale — though unlike these new shows, both currently airing shows are adaptations of novels.

Packer wouldn’t directly comment on Confederate, or the social media movement #NoConfederate in which people criticized the show for leveraging the suffering of black Americans, and exploring an alt-history that is all too real for many people today. But Packer did say:

“[T]he fact that there is the contemplation of contemporary slavery makes it something that I would not be a part of producing nor consuming. 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.”

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