There have been plenty of movies about slavery, from the more abhorrent likes of Birth of a Nation to more caring productions like 12 Years a Slave. As Kenyatta Cheese put it, "Hollywood is obsessed with seeing black folk in chains running from white men on horses." It's a subject that feels particularly exhausted lately, telling of the victimization of black culture in America over and over again, and even when racial ignorance is forgone, the white savior is always at the forefront.
However, the new TV series Underground, executive produced by John Legend, is determined to eschew the "slave drama" and shed light on the self-determination and self-emancipation of a people. As co-creator Misha Green put it, “We wanted people to see that it’s not about the occupation. It’s about the revolution." Variety reported further from the show's premiere in New York.
“The Underground Railroad is one sentence – one paragraph – in history books, and they sum it up to one person, the amazing legend of Harriet Tubman,” said actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell. “But there were thousands of people who risked their lives and who were actively changing our nation.”
Actor Aldis Hodge expressed similar sentiments in an interview with The Root.
“This one, I feel with this story, we see the resurgence, the revolution, the strength of these people, and that’s something we need to see because today a lot of the younger generation who aren’t familiar, who aren’t getting the real education behind it. They don’t understand what to be proud of. They don’t know the foundation. They don’t see it.
“It’s important to tell the parts of the stories that we don’t know,” Hodge continued. “There’s a large portion of our history that I don’t even know. And I say our history meaning American history, which involves black Americans, enslaved Americans who built up this land’s economy and brought it to fruition to what it is today. A lot of it in school is whitewashed, and just, I don’t remember ever seeing it or understanding it as prominently when I was a child because it just wasn’t there.”
Check out the show's trailer below. Underground premieres on March 9th on WGN.
Feature image via YouTube/WGN.