News & Politics

Amazon's 'Black America' May Be the Dumbest Alt-History Ever Conceived

I’m a big fan of alt-history. Some alternative treatments of historical events are pretty lame and some are very good. 

But Black America, another reimagining of the Civil War to go along with HBO’s Confederatemay be the dumbest alt-history yet.

I’ll let Deadline Hollywood give the synopsis:

Another alternate history drama series, which has been in the works at Amazon for over a year, also paints a reality where southern states have left the Union but takes a very different approach. Titled Black America, the drama hails from top feature producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like A Man franchises, Straight Outta Compton) and Peabody-winning The Boondocks creator and Black Jesus co-creator Aaron McGruder. It envisions an alternate history where newly freed African Americans have secured the Southern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama post-Reconstruction as reparations for slavery, and with that land, the freedom to shape their own destiny. The sovereign nation they formed, New Colonia, has had a tumultuous and sometimes violent relationship with its looming “Big Neighbor,” both ally and foe, the United States. The past 150 years have been witness to military incursions, assassinations, regime change, coups, etc. Today, after two decades of peace with the U.S. and unprecedented growth, an ascendant New Colonia joins the ranks of major industrialized nations on the world stage as America slides into rapid decline. Inexorably tied together, the fate of two nations, indivisible, hangs in the balance.

“Secured the Southern states…”? Huh? How? It will be interesting to see what they did with the majority of the population of those states who happened to be white.

Yeah…details, details, details.

And what president would have given as “reparations” to slaves four states? True, there was sentiment among some northern radicals to take away the rights of southern states to manage their own affairs, but anyone who proposed giving four states to former slaves would have been laughed out of Washington before being tarred, feathered, and perhaps lynched.

Real historians have pointed out the obvious: North and South could not have existed apart. Even if the South had somehow managed to win or make peace with the North and established its own country, eventually the two regions would have reunited out of economic necessity. The historical forces that formed them and made them what they became were too powerful to resist.

The idea that a “New Colonia” made up of ex-slaves could exist in the middle of the North American continent as an island is beyond absurd. It’s subversive of history and rational thinking. The notion that this island would be prospering while the USA was declining is fantasy inspired by a juvenile emotionalism as evidenced by the reactions of the creator of Black America to the HBO series Confederate.

But he addressed HBO’s show in his Deadline interview, saying “the fact that there is the contemplation of contemporary slavery makes it something that I would not be a part of producing nor consuming.”

He added, “Slavery is far too real and far too painful, and we still see the manifestations of it today as a country for me to ever view that as a form of entertainment.”

Please describe the “manifestations” of slavery you see today.

As far as not seeing slavery as entertainment, it’s obvious Mr. Packer hasn’t seen one of the most brilliant satires in history, the mockumentary C.S.A., whose alternative treatment of the South winning the Civil War and existing in the modern world has some incredibly funny, horrifying, nauseating, and thought-provoking content.

The New Colonia’s economy would be tied to the U.S. economy in ways that not even Mexico experiences. Of course, these little details will be ignored or glossed over to tell the story.

But that’s what’s going to make it awful or great alt-history — the details. What some historians refer to as “counterfactual” history must follow a certain inexorable logic. It doesn’t necessarily have to portray history in a linear or narrative fashion, but the underlying historical forces that drive history forward must be consistent.

Perhaps I should wait until more of the plot is revealed. But the very premise of a victorious North giving freed slaves four states as “reparations” is so far beyond anything that could possibly be real that we can safely dismiss it as the immature and ignorant imaginings of a Hollywood storyteller.