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BET Networks Airing First Miniseries ‘The Book of Negroes’ with Feb. 16 Premiere [Video]

Louis Gossett, Jr., and Lyriq Bent co-star in BET Networks’ “Book of Negroes” miniseries airing Feb. 16 to 18. (Photo: Entertainment One/BET)

Aunjanue Ellis and Cuba Gooding, Jr., co-star in BET Network’s “Book of Negroes. (Photo: Entertainment One/BET)
For Black History Month in February, BET is launching its first miniseries, “The Book of Negroes.”

The six-part historical drama, done in the tradition of the 1977 ABC-TV miniseries “Roots,” is based on Canadian novelist, essayist and memoirist Lawrence Hill’s novel titled “Someone Knows My Name.” It premieres Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. EST.

The miniseries, being broadcast in three two-hour installments for the six parts, also airs at 8 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18.

“The Book of Negroes” depicts the life of indomitable African woman Aminata Diallo (portrayed by Aunjanue Ellis).

Kidnapped by slave traders in West Africa and subsequently enslaved in South Carolina, Diallo navigates her way through the American Revolution in New York, the isolated refuge of Nova Scotia and the jungles of Sierra Leone before securing her freedom in England at start of the 19th century.

Produced by Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Entertainment, Entertainment One (eOne) and Idelwild Films, besides Ellis (“Ray” and “The Help”) the cast features Oscar Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. (“Jerry Maguire” and “A Few Good Men”), Oscar and Emmy winner Louis Gossett, Jr. (“An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Roots” and “Boardwalk Empire”), Lyriq Bent (“Rookie Blue”), Oscar nominee Jane Alexander (“The Cider House Rules”), Ben Chaplin (“The Thin Red Line”) and Allan Hawco (“Republic of Doyle”).

The executive producers are Damon D’Oliveira (“What We Have”), Clement Virgo (“The Wire”), Carrie Stein and Margaret O’Brien. D’Oliveira also was a co-writer and director for the production.

“The Book of Negroes” is a historical document recording the names and descriptions of 3,000 African-American slaves who worked for the British army during the American Revolution in the 18th century to earn their freedom. They were evacuated by the British by ship to points in Nova Scotia.

The book was assembled by Samuel Birch. African-Americans who escaped to the British during the Revolutionary War became the first settlement of Black Canadians. Other black Loyalists were transported to settlements in the West Indies and London. Recorded in 1783, the 150-page document is the only one to have chronicle Black Americans in a detailed scope of work.

“The Book of Negroes” miniseries is currently airing six consecutive Wednesdays on CBC-TV in Canada through Feb. 11, with each episode available online for one week after broadcast at www.cbc.ca/bookofnegroes/. It was the No. 1 program on prime time Jan. 7 in Canada for its premiere, beating the People’s Choice Awards on Global, according to the CBC.

W.W. Norton & Co has just released a new American edition of the novel “The Book of Negroes,” which was previously titled “Someone Knows My Name” in the U.S.

Based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” the series “Roots” aired on ABC-TV in 1977 and won nine Emmy Awards.

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