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FX Network Will Adapt James McBride's Harriet Tubman-Inspired Novel 'Song Yet Sung' As A Mini-Series

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
November 26, 2013 12:44 PM
7 Comments
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So... yeah... about what I said about the winding down "slave movie/TV show fever"... maybe I spoke too soon.


On the heels of last week's news that Giancarlo Esposito will be directing a feature film on abolitionist John Brown, with Esposito playing Frederick Douglass, as well as my suggestion that there's likely a film adaptation in the future of author James McBride's 2013 National Book Awards winning novel, The Good Lord Bird - the memoir of a 103-year-old black man, who claims to have served with abolitionist John Brown...

It's been announced today that another James McBride novel, Song Yet Sung (published in 2009), will be adapted into a TV series at the FX network, via Kelsey Grammer's Gammnet NH production company.

To be titled The Code, here's a breakdown of the novel:

In the days before the Civil War, a runaway slave named Liz Spocott breaks free from her captors and escapes into the labyrinthine swamps of Maryland’s eastern shore, setting loose a drama of violence and hope among slave catchers, plantation owners, watermen, runaway slaves, and free blacks. Liz is near death, wracked by disturbing visions of the future, and armed with “the Code,” a fiercely guarded cryptic means of communication for slaves on the run. Liz’s flight and her dreams of tomorrow will thrust all those near her toward a mysterious, redemptive fate.

The story is based on actual historical figures, including Harriet Tubman, and has been reviewed mostly well, with the consensus dubbing it a suspenseful, action-packed adventure.

So for those who've been pining for a new Harriet Tubman film, this might be as close as you're going to get for now. Although it's not specifically about her, as my research tells me, McBride’s heroine, Liz Spocott, is inspired by Tubman.

Has anyone read the novel? If so, your thoughts?

James McBride will adapt his book and co-executive produce the project, along with Brian Taylor, with Kelsey Grammer executive producing. 

FX is clearly interested in taking a bite of the "slavery movie/TV show" pie, as this is the second related project it has ordered in the last year. Actor, Paul Giamatti partnered with FX to develop a mini-series on John Brown as well, which will trace the true story of the abolitionist’s transformation from a lowly 50-year old farmer to a notorious anti-slavery freedom fighter in Kansas and his famed 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry.

The project, itself also based on a book, is expected to be 6 to 8 hours in length.

FX also reportedly chased the remake of Roots, which eventually went to the History channel, as was recently announced.

So the *fever* continues, moving from the big screen over the last 2 years, to the small screen, starting next year and beyond. Don't forget that ABC also has it's own slave-themed series in development - a 12-hour miniseries that will also be based on a novel, A Slave In The White House, which tells Paul Jennings' story, who was born into slavery on the plantation of James and Dolley Madison in Virginia, later becoming part of President Madison's staff at the White House
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7 Comments

  • Katie | November 29, 2013 1:31 PMReply

    I'm torn, yes we should have as many slavery stories told as the Holocaust, but at the same time I would like to see a balance of OTHER stories from the black experience. Someone PLEASE adapt Salvage the bones by Jesmyn Ward, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, or Kwei Quartey's Darko Mystery Series. I would jump for joy for a Jones' Book. I cried violently reading that book. I guess I'll get my black experience balance from black web series until we formally create our alternative mass media.

    And The Good Lord Bird has the tone of True Grit? I can't wait to read it with my book club this January!

  • tolly devlin | November 29, 2013 10:01 AMReply

    Read the novel.Did not feel that it was McBride's best work, but that might make it more adaptable. I hope it will be better than Spike's adaptation of Miracle.... I am currently reading The Good Lord Bird & unless someone brought the same tone & sensitivity that the Coen's brought to their adaptation of True Grit just leave it alone.

  • Mira J | November 26, 2013 5:03 PMReply

    I'm actually here for it. Just finished reading this novel for the 3rd time, and this seems to be very interesting.

  • urbanauteur | November 26, 2013 3:15 PMReply

    Wow... i just commented on this...;-/

  • Alias | November 26, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    FX seems like such a random, odd, place for this project.

  • critical acclaim | November 26, 2013 2:27 PMReply

    There should be as many stories told and shown about slavery as there are about the holocaust. And that a damn lot. I say bring it on.

  • Said in Los Angeles | November 26, 2013 11:38 PM

    I agree.

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