The alt-history series will explore a world in which newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as reparations for slavery. The new nation, known as New Colonia, has a tumultuous relationship with the United States government.
Packer and McGruder will executive produce the series. Packer is a prolific producer, having recently worked on films such as “Girls Trip,” “Straight Outta Compton,” and “Ride Along” to name just a few. McGruder is best known for creating the comic strip and accompanying cartoon series “The Boondocks,” as well as the series “Black Jesus.”
Packer is repped by CAA and Ziffren Brittenham. McGruder is repped by ICM and LEG.
“Black America” is the latest alt-history project from Amazon, along with the Emmy-winning series “The Man in the High Castle,” which explores world in which the Nazis have won World War II.
The announcement of the new Amazon series comes on the heels of HBO confirming that they are developing the series “Confederate,” which hails from “Game of Thrones” executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.
The HBO series announcement was met with immense backlash, with HBO’s programming president Casey Bloys addressing the controversy during his presentation at the Television Critics Assn. press tour. “Our mistake — HBO’s mistake, not the producers — was the idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive and requires such care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release was misguided on our part,” he said.
Regardless, activist April Reign, who created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, got the hashtag #NoConfederate trending on Twitter. “We believe the time to speak up is now, before the show has been written or cast,” Reign wrote at the time. “Before @hbo invests too much money into #Confederate.”
However, Reign tells Variety she supports the Amazon show.
“I think it’s a much better representation of alt-history than what was proposed by Benioff and Weiss,” she said. “I support this project as it will show black and brown people thriving in this country, something that isn’t shown enough on screen. I’m also confident that, based on Mr. Packer’s previous track record, the crew behind the camera will be much more inclusive than we’ve seen from ‘Game of Thrones.'”
HBO responded to the outcry with a statement: “We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around ‘Confederate.’ We have faith that Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”