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First Footage From 'The Book of Negroes' Looks Promising - Take a Look...

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 7, 2014 11:36 AM
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Book of Negroes

Principal photography for Clement Virgo's much-anticipated film adaptation of author Lawrence Hill’s award-winning bestseller, "The Book of Negroes," is complete, as the project now moves into the next phase of the production process.

Aunjanue Ellis, Louis Gossett Jr., Cuba Gooding Jr., and Lyriq Bent are all members of the starring cast of the project from Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Entertainment and Entertainment One (eOne) Television. 

Ben Chaplin, Allan Hawko and Jane Alexander also feature, amongst many others.

Boasting one of the strongest female characters in recent fiction, the novel's synopsis reads:

Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.” This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own. Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone—passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America—is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey.

Aunjanue Ellis stars as Aminata Diallo, while Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lou Gossett Jr. play Sam Fraunces and Daddy Moses respectively.

Gooding's Fraunces is a freed slave from Jamaica who runs his namesake tavern (Fraunces Tavern), participates in several historical events, and later moves to Mount Vernon to run George Washington's household.

Meanwhile, Daddy Moses is Moses 'Daddy' Wilkinson or Old Moses, an African American slave, and Methodist preacher in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone. Though blind and crippled, Wilkinson led a band of runaway slaves to freedom in 1776.

Also Lyriq Bent is playing Chekura, who, as a young boy, made the crossing with Aminata when she was sold into slavery, is separated from her, and later reunites with her when they are adults, and have a child together. 

Allan Hawco is Solomon Lindo (a Jewish man Aminata is sold to), Ben Chaplin is Capt. John Clarkson (a young British naval officer recruiting black settlers to move from Nova Scotia to Sierra Leone); and Jane Alexander plays a Maria Witherspoon, the matriarch of a white family that Aminata leaves her baby with, for safety, during a series of riots that break out as the city she lives in is attacked and black men and women are lynched. She later returns to the Witherspoon's home to claim her child, only to learn that they've left with the baby. 

The adaptation of the novel will be a 6-hour TV mini-series, which, as I've said previously, was more suitable for the material than a feature-length film. It's not a very long book at around 380 pages (paperback), but the material is weighty, and, I think would be better told in long-form, instead of cramming it all into 2 hours.

USA rights belong to BET, who are teaming up with CBC in Canada, to bring the mini-series adaptation to the small screen, during the 2014/2015 TV season.

If you'd like to pick up a copy of "The Book Of Negroes" to read, click HERE to purchase. I bought it last year, and will write up a book-to-screen review of it before its premiere.

"The Book of Negroes" is an official Canada-South Africa co-production, executive produced by Damon D'Oliveira and Clement Virgo from Conquering Lion Pictures; Lance Samuels from Out of Africa Entertainment; Bill Niven of Idlewild Films; and eOne's Carrie Stein and Margaret O'Brien. Other executive producers include Daniel Iron and Michael Levine.

Here's your first look at official footage from the upcoming miniseries via a CBC promo, below. It's really a tease, so there isn't a lot to take in, but there's enough here to entice me to want to see more. Underneath, you'll find a few images, featuring its stars:

Book of Negroes
Book of Negroes
Book of Negroes

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  • Aileen | August 3, 2014 10:09 AMReply

    I've read quite a few of Mr Hill's books and can't wait to see Book of Negroes on the screen

  • Ms. Thang | June 25, 2014 11:29 PMReply

    The author is a black Canadian and there is a connection to Canada in the book. This is a mini-series not a movie. I read this book and Roots as well. I liked The Book of Negroes more and look forward to the mini-series.

  • MS.THANG | June 25, 2014 11:40 PM

    I forgot to add that Mr.Hill's parents immigrated to Canada from the U.S.

  • Dave's Deluxe | June 9, 2014 5:12 PMReply

    While I am a huge fan of the director, I'm not certain how I feel about another American slave movie directed by a non-American. McQueen's a brit, and Clement's Canadian.

  • boomslang | June 14, 2014 8:15 AM


    You mad Bro ?
    Okay first of all the guy who wrote the book of negroes is black briton. The guy who adapted it for the screen is black canadian . 4 of the main actors are black canadians , there is a south african , a black Brit , there is a Malian/senegalese some of the caucasian actors are not Americans . And its not an african american who bankrolled this. So if you do not like the movie , do not watch .

  • Guyver | June 9, 2014 12:15 PMReply

    Here we go again... the mindless drones can't wait to see our people in chains and oppressed again... no thanks. And for God's sake, stop pretending as if the brief era of slavery in AMERICAN history, accounts for our WORLD history as people of color. We existed in China, France, Europe, Latin countries and everywhere else around the globe before some of us were stolen and brought to America. If you are going to promote so called history, be knowledgeable of our world history as a whole, not just America.

  • Phred G | June 7, 2014 5:37 PMReply

    Congratulations to Aunjanue Ellis!!! I been likin' her since her stint on THE MENTALIST as Hightower. Oh, and if you don't like SLAVE movies, DON'T WATCH 'EM!!! ijs

  • troublemaker | June 7, 2014 12:44 PMReply

    Great, just what we need... another slave movie.

  • troublemaker | June 9, 2014 5:01 PM

    Yes it do seems like the Jews put out a Holocaust movie every year but they go out and support their movies. We don't.

    One of the reasons why we don't is whenever we make a slave movie it always seems like a copy of Roots. I just look at the stills and I see Roots. I can select frames from that trailer and match it up with the same frames in Roots. Why can't these filmmakers/studios be more visually creative ?

  • troublemaker | June 9, 2014 4:43 PM

    You can name call all you like! I will continue to express my opinions. I understand the Hollywood industry does want regular people to challenge what they do but we are the ones who spend our hard earn money on these movies.

  • Mia | June 9, 2014 10:42 AM

    well dumb ass I don't think anyone is gonna force your stupid ass to watch it

  • Millicent Valledares | June 9, 2014 8:54 AM

    Ummm...the Jews make a movie about the Holocaust EVERY a matter of fact, I've counted 4 movies that were released this year on WWII and the Holocaust. Why can't our stories be told?

  • troublemaker | June 8, 2014 10:06 AM

    This movie shouldn't be coming out so soon after 12 Years A Slave came out late last year. At least 3 to 5 years should have gone by before another slave movie came out. Saturating the market with one slave movie after another is never a good thing and this movie may suffer as a result.

  • NotForYou | June 8, 2014 6:31 AM

    Stick to your reality shows...this too deep for

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