Clement Virgo’s much-anticipated miniseries adaptation of author Lawrence Hill’s award-winning bestseller, “The Book of Negroes,” stars Aunjanue Ellis as Aminata Diallo – abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in Sierra Leone, and sent to live as a slave in South Carolina, but, years later, forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.”
The 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.
Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lou Gossett Jr. co-star in the film, playing 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.
Playing a young Aminata (recall the story starts when she’s abducted as an 11-year-old) is newcomer Shailyn Pierre-Dixon. Meet the 11-year-old actress via the below CBC Connects interview, in which she shares why she wanted to play the part, how she felt when she won the role, and what it was like filming. Scattered within the clip is footage from the series, which already premiered on CBC Television in Canada, and is set to air in the USA, in a 6-hour TV mini-series, on BET, next month.