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CBC, BET adapting African slave novel

Canadian pubcaster CBC and Viacom’s US cable channel BET are to broadcast a miniseries adapted from Lawrence Hill’s controversial novel The Book of Negroes.

Conquering Lion Pictures, Out Of Africa Entertainment and indie studio Entertainment One are adapting the book, with production beginning in South Africa in the autumn. Clement Virgo (The Wire) is attached to direct and co-write the miniseries.

Virgo is executive producing, along with Damon D’Oliveira, Lance Samuels, Daniel Iron, eOne’s Carrie Stein and Bill Nivel of Idlewild Films.

An Entertainment One spokesperson confirmed the series would be called The Book of Negroes despite the book being published as Someone Knows My Name in the US, Australia and New Zealand to avoid the controversial racial connotations.

The title refers to an historical document that British naval officers used at the end of the American War of Independence, according to Hill.

His book told the tale of a female African slave living in the US during the American Revolution who ultimately gained freedom in the UK.

“Reminiscent of the classic TV series Roots, The Book Of Negroes depicts a universal narrative about love, loss, and human survival against a critical moment in history which affected the social fabric of the US, Canada and the UK,” said Samuels.

“We feel extremely fortunate to have two broadcasters so committed to this project. The Book of Negroes is a widely read book in Canada and the CBC has been supportive of this project from day one. BET are launching The Book of Negroes as their first ‘event’ miniseries, adding this first rate show to their growing slate of original scripted programming,” added D’Oliveira.

eOne will handle global distribution.