A Different Kind of Alternate History Series Is Announced in ‘Black America’

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Straight Outta Compton/Girls Trip producer Will Packer and The Boondocks writer/illustrator/subsequent TV series creator Aaron McGruder have teamed up to develop a series examining an alternate post-Civil War history for Amazon…and, no, it has nothing to do with HBO’s controversial Confederate, and in many ways sounds like its alternate-history antithesis.

For instead of the South triumphing and slavery persisting into the present day, the South is, in their developing series Black America, so defeated and contrite (imagine that — a country showing reparative contrition for one of the most heinous affronts to humanity in the past four-or-so-centuries!) that black people are given governance over Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama following the abolition of slavery. That comes, as Deadline describes, with “the freedom to shape their own destiny,” instead of, say, having that destiny violently squeezed into the margins by new laws meant to perpetuate white supremacy.

The series will be set in New Colonia, the imagined country made up of those three southern states. It’s a nation that is now, for the past two decades, complicatedly allied with its neighbor, the United States, after a century and a half of “military incursions, assassinations, regime change, and coups.” The U.S. is, in this alternate history, currently in a state of rapid decline. (Some parallels to today’s reality clearly remain.) Meanwhile, New Colonia is stable and prosperous, and starting to be seen as one of the world’s leading powers.

The project was actually announced — in very vague terms — earlier this year. What was known prior to today didn’t go beyond the producers and the fact that they were building an alternate history. Though this may in fact seem like a direct response to Confederate, the idea started being developed over a year ago. The timing of the announcement, however, was very related. Packer told Deadline, “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.”

The idea was presented to Packer by Amazon’s head of content Roy Price over a year ago. Packer explains why he got McGruder involved after he contemplated the original concept: “I thought he definitely had the right tone, the right voice, the right wit to handle a project like this.” He emphasizes that it is is a drama, but that it’s infused with McGruder’s “trademark sardonic wit.” In the Deadline piece, Packer also highlights the fundamental questions the series asks:

It was something that was personally intriguing for me as a black American. You would be hard pressed to find many black Americans who have not thought about the concept of reparation, what would happen if reparations were actually given…What if reparations were given, what would this country and that alternate country look like today, how would Americans look, our communities, relations… I think that there definitely is a message about how we co-exist today where that didn’t happen, there weren’t reparations, and you still have black Americans who are suffering from the effects of slavery in various ways.

McGruder is now “off and writing.”