fresh/press TV review – THE BOOK OF NEGROES (part 6)

Look back… But never give up… THE BOOK OF NEGROES concluded with an emotionally satisfying ending. Aminata’s long sad journey led her to Africa where she reunites with the love of her life Chakura. Her ultimate quest to return home is now one step closer.

That monumental (one) step from boat to beach held so much weight – like man stepping foot on the Moon – an impossible mission was successful. Aminata arrives on the same beach that so many shackled Africans boarded ships and entered slavery. This beach is where Aminata’s journey comes full circle.

As Aminata searches for her home village she comes across slavers and kidnapped Africans. She knows if she approaches them she risks her life. She attempts it anyway. She knows she may not be able to free them but she can offer some relief and some hope. She gives water to a young African. She tells the passing chain gang to not give up hope. No matter what.

Chakura and Aminata’s relationship has been quite complex since its beginning. Chakura was a slaver who helped take Aminata captive. Once they come upon another group of slaves he finds a chance for redemption. He is willing to make a sacrifice to ensure others aren’t taken into slavery. He won’t make that same mistake again. He wishes to make amends. The moment when he spurs to action reminds us of his guilt. It’s interesting when you consider how real slavers might have felt this. They might not have understood the full implications of their actions at the time. Maybe this idea only occurred to them when it was too late to make amends? It’s a heartbreaking other side to the coin.

Once the slaves are freed they bring Aminata to their village. This is the closest she will get to returning home. It is a bitter-sweet victory. Her home is long gone. She can never return. This alludes to our own childhood whoever we are. Imagining this about ourselves makes us quite melancholy. Now try and imagine if you were stolen from your home, or robbed of your childhood – your innocence ripped from your very being. Your essence destroyed.

cultural representation

There is always hope, however. Aminata experiences something very close to her family and the culture she was born in. These moments in Africa are some of the most enjoyable for me. I’m really compelled by learning more of this moment in history, in this part of the world. It’s like getting a glimpse into pre-history. Perhaps all of our roots stem from similar cultural practices? Perhaps we’ve all distanced ourselves from true humanity with the industrial revolution? I’d love to see another mini-series set entirely in Africa. Maybe even something with action elements like History Channel’s THE VIKINGS. I’d like to see a large scale version of SHAKA ZULU.

Eventually, Aminata is asked to document her personal journey for history. The British want to have an account of slavery from a Black voice, but it seems like they would prefer a ghost writer or some other author to tell her story. Perhaps so they can create a more favourable version of history? I love how Aminata stands up for herself and insists only she can writer her own story. The Brits find it hard to accept that she has the literary skills to accomplish such feats.

Soon enough after publication of her biography, the English courts question the authenticty of Aminata’s memoirs. They don’t believe a negro can read or write something so intellectual. I love how Aminata spits this back in their face when they ask if she can spell names from the Bible. She easily does this to great effect.

It’s difficult to not spell out every plot twist. With all of these reviews I’ve purposely ignored several important scenes that greatly alter the story; however, I feel like I must mention the touching finale to this epic Canadian mini-series.

<<<INCOMING SPOILERS>>>

It’s clear by the end of the courtroom scene that the British are still combating racism. They may have abolished slavery but they are still prejiduce. Although, it seems like Aminata has convinced them that she is the true author of her own memoir. The most touching moment in the series happens outside that courthouse.

Aminata meets a familiar face – her guilt-ridden former employer – The French Jew (who faced his own share of discrimination). Much like Chakura, the Frenchman has his own sins to make amends for. He is tortured by guilt. Aminata previously searched him out to learn of her child’s purchase. He told her he sold the child to a family who would take good care of her. Aminata was told that her daughter died of smallpox, much like what happened to her second child in Nova Scotia.

All of these events weighed on Aminata, pushing her into depression. Somehow she never gave up hope. And it was with good reason. The final moments of this mini-series reunites Aminata with her grown daughter. It was so touching. Heart-wrenching. Hopeful. Drama, without melodrama. Tragedy nixed by joy and happiness. The Frenchman doesn’t deliver some big epic speech. And neither does Aminata. The moment is poignant and balanced. Aminata is overwhelmed. Just like us…

What a journey.

<<<END SPOILERS>>>

What did you think?

Is BOOK OF NEGROES Award bound?

Will the United States find this mini-series too controversial?

Will the success of this series lead to more African history television events?

What did you think of the ensemble cast?

What did you think of AUNJANUE ELLIS as AMINATA?

Will you go out and buy the novel to get a larger picture and more context?

Are you inspired to do your own research into this subject matter?

What did you think of Aminata’s long journey? Were you satisfied by the finale?

So... What'd you think?

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