Hampton U. to screen BET series ‘The Book of Negroes’

By Mariah McClain and Alexandria Johnson

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, Hampton University will host a free screening of the upcoming BET miniseries "The Book of Negroes" in Ogden Hall. The screening will provide Hampton University students and Hampton Roads-area residents the opportunity to preview some of the six-part series that is set to begin airing on BET Feb. 16.

"The Book of Negroes," based on the award-winning 2007 book by Lawrence Hill, tells the story of an 11-year-old girl named Aminata Diallo who gets kidnapped from her West African village and is taken to the United States during the peak of the Mid-Atlantic slave trade.

Her character is played by actress Aunjanue Ellis. She has had reoccurring roles on "NCIS: Miami" and has also been seen on the big screen in "The Help," working side by side with Lryiq Bent and Cuba Gooding Jr.

"The Book of Negroes" gets its name from the historical document of the same name. The document contained the names of those 3,000 blacks who served the British king, allowing blacks who lived in Manhattan to settle in Nova Scotia, Canada during the American Revolutionary War. "The Book of Negroes" becomes Aminata's chance at freedom, and the story is centered on her involvement with the document, and her life thereafter.

Cuba Gooding Jr. told Anthony D'Alessandro of deadline.com, "It's told from the female perspective with a sense of empowerment. Through Amanita's journey we see the strength of her character. 'The Book of Negroes' is another upsetting moment for African Americans, when we have made a positive impact on the building of America, but our history hasn't been told. Hearing this tale of strength moved me."

This is not, however, the first time that Hampton University has hosted a free screening of a movie before its premiere. Many students may recall the free viewing of "12 Years a Slave" October 2013 in Ogden Hall. "12 Years a Slave" had a similar motif of slave narrative.

Many Hampton University students who did not attend last year's free screening of "12 Years a Slave" will have the opportunity to take advantage of the free screening this time around. Edwina Zoedua, a Pharmacy major from Prince George's County, Md., said, "Yes, I am actually really excited. I don't have any expectations, per say. I am keeping my mind open for new information and new perspectives."

Kayla Anderson, a psychology major from Bowie, Md., said, "Yeah, I'll probably go see it. I expect to see another story similar to '12 Years a Slave' and 'The Butler' about a black person being enslaved and trying to make it out of slavery."

Adam Downing, an accounting major from Baltimore, said, "If I can make it, sure. I'm really busy this week though. I would expect to learn some new things about newly freed slaves." Chaya Hairston, a pre-pharmacy major from Long Island, N.Y., said, "It seems like it will be just an interesting picture that depicts a part of our history that is not recognized and a chance to learn about our contributions in the war."

Tori Liggins, a cinema studies student, said, "I'm looking for a better understanding of African American history, and it's always fun to learn about my culture and the strength of my ancestors."

Hampton University through its partnership with BET Networks has the privilege of showing the first screening of a series that is engulfed in the sufferings of slavery but depicts the strength and power of African Americans to overcome it.

The writers are students in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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