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Recap: Book Of Negroes Part 2

We open part two of six, with Aminata (now played by Aunjanue Ellis) waking and several critical pieces of the story are quickly thrown at the viewers. We learn Aminata is travelling with Georgia (Sandra Caldwell) to assist with slave births and in this instance Georgia is insisting Aminata travel with her for her own best interest. Georgia is very much aware that their owner, Robertson Appleby (Greg Bryk of Bitten fame) has his eye on the young slave and warns Aminata of her fears. We are also informed of a couple of unrelated items imperative to the story; Aminata knows how to read, and that the south is suffering from smallpox outbreaks.

This episode gives viewers a visceral depiction of the power that the slave owners held and the violation perpetrated against the slaves during this era. This sense of not having any control over your own life is repeated throughout.

Our story really begins when Solomon Lindo (Allan Hawko of CBC’s popular Republic of Doyle), a Jewish businessman, comes to visit the Indigo Plantation. He and his wife Rosa (Amy Louise Wilson) realise that Aminata is an exceptional woman and attempt to buy her from Appleby. Rosa is aware that “Mina” can read. It is clear that Rosa wants Mina for her own. However, Appleby refuses Solomon’s offer of purchase.

As the Massa, we see Appleby exercing his power and orders Aminata to the Big House, trapping and ultimately raping her. I am not sure what would have be worse, actually watching the rape played out on the screen or leaving the violation to my imagination. We are however spared the details and only to hear her screams as Aminata is attacked by her owner. This scene only lays the groundwork for yet more abuse to come.

All is not lost though for our heroine, there is a bright spot. Chekura (Lyriq Bent) conveniently manages to track Aminata down since she is after all a famous baby catcher who knows every possible language, and they wed.

We next see Aminata ripe in an advanced stage of pregnancy and an incredibly powerful scene plays out (In my mind the most emotional of the night). Appleby, realises that the baby Aminata carries is not his and he shears her head before all of the other slaves. He concludes this public violation on Aminata, demonstrating his ultimate power by informing all who will listen with his veiled threat that “the baby you (Aminata) carry is no more yours than the hair on your head.” Mr. Bryk manages to convey his character’s contempt for the slaves that to him are merely a commodity. He exudes the entitlement as the owner and master of his domain. Further we see Ms. Ellis beautifully maintaining her character’s quiet dignity in the face of this public humiliation. Brava to Ms. Ellis for portraying Aminata’s strength and determination in such a poignant manner.

Aminata carries her baby to term and of course, Appleby, knowing that the child is not his sells the infant off in order to punish Aminata. Then as a final blow, she is sold to Solomon, committing her to a state of permanent exile her from her family of slaves.

In her new life as a servant (rather than slave) to the Lindo’s, Mina must adjust her perspective. Mina assists in the birth of Rosa’s son. Still the inequities of life as a black woman play out as we learn that Solomon helped sell Mina’s daughter. This is justified in his mind as he believes that both Mina and her daughter are better off out of the clutches of Appleby. He feels he deserves her gratitude since he exercised his power and wealth and saved them both.

We close with Mina grieving the loss of her daughter; she has succumbed to smallpox.

What a fabulous episode. I am loving that even in the short time frame this show airs (I really wish each episode was a 2 hour slot instead of the 1 hour) we are seeing a richness in each of our characters. We have in two episodes essentially seen two separate casts (in order to accommodate such a broad span of time) and yet this production has delivered a splendidly woven story with dynamic characters and not the caricatures we so often see.

Let me know what you thought about part two in the comments below.

Carolyn Potts
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Carolyn Potts

Teacher. Writer. Mom. Masters' Candidate, Faculty of Education, Western University. Studying Pop Culture Media as a Decolonizer of Education Policy and Practice. I also volunteer as a Girl Guide leader in my spare time.
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8 thoughts on “Recap: Book Of Negroes Part 2”

  1. It was good but I agree that this should have been shown across both episodes. I missed Aminata adjusting to life as a slave and more of her life prior to the start of the episode. Most of the events in the episode were so briefly shown. Maybe it’s because I’m so much of a tv watcher and in a tv series you get to see characters and the story develop over time. That’s why I much more prefer tv series to movies.

    1. I totally agree. But that said, I have not read the book. I can only go by what I see during the episode (this is not a genre I would typically read, but I have bought the book now and will likely sit down to read it this summer). I am however, quite impressed by the depth of character that has been showcased thus far given the restrictions of 2 – 1 hour programs.

  2. Great review. Gives someone who has never seen the show a good idea of what it’s about and would probably makes anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, interested in watching. Very well written.

    1. “… and would probably make anyone”, that is. Ugh. I changed something I had originally typed and forgot to delete that “s”. :P

  3. Thank you so much for the recaps. I print them out and read it just before the next episode. This keeps the plot fresh in your mind and you don’t have to remember someones name from a week ago. Your comments also add some new dimension to the previous show.

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