Reviewing The Book of Negroes
Many know of Canada’s significance to black history and one of its great distinctions as a safe haven for slaves who sought freedom.
We have heard the stories of Black Loyalists who fought alongside the British during the American Revolution. Not to mention the British abolitionists’ movement that fought to lead African slaves to freedom through the abolishment of the slave trade.
The Book of Negroes mini-series, based on the Lawrence Hill novel of the same name, recounts on this history, while also bringing the raw truth of the strife towards freedom for slaves to the silver screen.
The series directs us along a journey of slavery and the first steps to freedom for African Americans and African Canadians. It takes on a strong storyline with an even more powerful voice from its fictional heroine, Aminata Diallo.
Diallo’s story begins as a child when she is abducted from her village of Bayo, West Africa, and sold into slavery on a South Carolina planation. She lives in slavery in Charleston, South Carolina, and finds freedom in Canvas Town — a black ghetto in New York — and later Nova Scotia. It is there that she begins to fight for her freedom and her independence until she is able to return to her native land of Africa.
Diallo is well educated, strong and her greatest advantage is her ability to read and write, as well as speak multiple languages. These traits are few of the many things that made Diallo especially valuable, and well respected by the British abolitionists in their fight against the slave trade.
Aunjanue Ellis depicts the character of Diallo in an authentic way that not many could. She portrays the heroine with great emotion that allows for sympathy and understanding, while also giving Diallo a radiant confidence.
Her character is an important model of what it means to be a born leader in a time of adversity.
Overall, using a fictional character to depict such a significant monument in African history does not deplete the impact of the story. Rather, it brings a relevant acknowledgement of what black history means to African Americans and African Canadians today.