Amazon Is Developing Its Own Post–Civil War Alternate-History Series Called Black America

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Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for 2017 ESSENCE Festival

Amazon sees your Confederate, HBO, and might be raising you Black America, a new series in “very, very active development” about what America would be like today if freed slaves had been given Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as reparations after the Civil War. If that’s ringing bells, you’ve probably been following the PR problem HBO has been having with its own in-development alternate-history series, which imagines a much more Man in the High Castle–type present, where the South has seceded and slavery was both kept around and turned into a modernized arm of the economy over time.

Two of the Amazon program’s biggest behind-the-scenes differences are that it’s being made by a black creative team, and that, while Confederate already has a series order, as of now Black America still needs to go through the pilot process at Amazon in hopes of getting picked up. There is a scenario in which it might get pre-green-lit by the streaming giant — say, if it landed a few big-name talents — but, at this time, it will still have to compete with the other series hopefuls.

According to Deadline —which broke the news about Black America’s details today — this isn’t a rapid-fire response to Confederate, either. The show has been in the works for more than a year, but its producer Will Packer and creator Aaron McGruder only decided to go public now with its specifics. Because of all the Confederate headlines, Packer told Deadline he wanted to make sure “the creative community knew that there was a project that preexisted, and we are pretty far down the road with it.” He also addressed the impact of creating a place like New Colonia, the hard-won utopia at the center of Black America. “It was something that was personally intriguing for me as a black American. 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.”

As for all the trouble around Confederate — a show from the creators of Game of Thrones that brings the darkest post–Civil War timeline to life — Packer had a few thoughts on that, as well. “The fact that there is the contemplation of contemporary slavery makes it something that I would not be a part of producing or consuming,” he told Deadline. “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.”

Amazon Developing Black America, an Alternate-History Series