Robert Lloyd, THE L.A. TIMES
(The Los Angeles Times)—As a handsome period miniseries, “The Book of Negroes,” which premieres Monday on BET and continues through Wednesday, is a first for a network whose original offerings have often seemed something less than ambitious. That the miniseries is Canadian-made, based on a novel by African Canadian author Lawrence Hill, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jamaican-born Canadian director Clement Virgo, is noteworthy but does not diminish the moment. What would PBS be without the BBC?
The series’ provenance does mean that, as a story of slavery and escape from slavery, it differs in substance and theme from American tellings. The road here, which begins in Mali in 1761 and ends in London in 1807, runs through snowy Nova Scotia (by way of South Carolina, New York and Sierra Leone); in its recounting of the American Revolution, from the black (and Commonwealth) perspective, the British are better than villains and the colonists not quite heroes.