Days after HBO announced it was developing a TV series about an alternate history of slavery in the United States, Amazon did the same.
The e-commerce giant, whose streaming video operation competes with both HBO and Netflix, is making a show called Black America, which imagines a post-Reconstruction US in which freed African Americans have procured three states as reparations for slavery, Deadline reported. The show hails from prolific film producer Will Packer and The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder, who are both black.
In the show, the new sovereign nation is called New Colonia (made up of what was once Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi), and has a “tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming ‘Big Neighbor,’ both ally and foe, the United States.”
Packer said he was excited to realize a story that hasn’t yet been told in popular entertainment. “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,” he told Deadline.
Based on premise alone, Black America sounds like the opposite of HBO’s Confederate, which will depict a US where slavery, still legal, has “evolved into a modern institution.” Confederate is being developed by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Immediately after HBO announced Confederate, the show was met with severe backlash on social media. Critics argued that the desire to keep slavery alive in fiction was exhausting, and that Benioff and Weiss were not the right people to tell that story anyway. The Thrones team responded to the criticism, saying they understood people’s concerns but asked that they reserve judgment until the show actually aired.
HBO programming president Casey Bloys, meanwhile, admitted it was a mistake to announce the show so early in a vague press release, but stood behind its creators. (Writing and producing the show with Benioff and Weiss are TV writers Malcolm and Nichelle Tramble Spellman, who are black.)
Though HBO’s alt-history drama was announced first, Amazon’s has been gestating for months. It’s possible that HBO rushed its announcement of Confederate after it caught wind of Amazon’s show. Neither show is expected to debut until 2019.