Suffice it to say that the announcement of HBO’s Confederate, an alt-history speculative drama series that thinks it’s a good idea to ask, “hey, what if slavery was still legal?,” raised a lot of eyebrows. Not least at its rival Amazon Studios, where those raised eyebrows were presumably accompanied by some slow head shakes and bursts of laughter. You see, Amazon has also been developing a series based on the idea of an alternative outcome to the Civil War, but they were a whole hell of a lot smarter about it. America, meet Black America.
Deadline has details on the series, which comes from Straight Outta Compton and Girls Trip producer Will Packer and The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder. Not only did Amazon have the foresight to have black people in key creative roles for a story about the lingering effects of slavery in America, it’s running with the premise that former slaves received the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as reparations in the post-Reconstruction period. Fast-forward to now, where the new country, New Colonia, has an uneasy relationship and violent history with its neighbors in the United States of America. As the show begins, America is in decline and New Colonia on a global upswing.
When the project was first announced in February, Amazon declined to share any details about the show beyond McGruder and Packer’s involvement and the vague “alternative universe” label. Deadline says that the uproar over Confederate, including the #NoConfederate campaign that gained traction on Twitter over the weekend, led Amazon to decide to release the details on Black America. As Packer puts it, “ this was the appropriate time to make sure that audiences and the creative community knew that there was a project that pre-existed and we are pretty far down the road with it.”
Packer adds that McGruder, whose “sardonic wit” will inform what’s otherwise a straight drama series, is busy writing the scripts for the show now, with historians on board to consult on the story. He declines to comment on Confederate beyond saying, “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,” and says that within a show based around the idea of reparations “there definitely is a message about how we co-exist today where that didn’t happen … and you still have black Americans who are suffering from the effects of slavery in various ways,” including the prison-industrial complex. He hopes that Black America “will speak to where we are now and the mistakes this country has made and things we should do going forward.”