By Christian Holub
October 19, 2020 at 02:08 PM EDT
Credit: Amazon

What was the Underground Railroad? Although the name conjures visions of subterranean safe heavens and train tracks, any student of American history knows that the real-life Underground Railroad was a more unofficial network of abolitionists and allies who smuggled runaway slaves to freedom through whatever paths were open to them. But Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning 2016 novel The Underground Railroad imagined an alternate history where the truth was closer to fiction. Now, The Underground Railroad is being adapted into a live-action TV series by Amazon, and showrunner Barry Jenkins teased what the show will look like with a short clip released on Monday.

"We the People..." Jenkins wrote in his tweet, evoking not just the Preamble to the United States Constitution (the video is also titled "Preamble") but also the huge crowd of Black characters staring down the camera in the video. The camera moves through them, taking in the size of the crowd, until coming to rest before a team of uniformed train conductors at the front. One voice asks: "Who built all this?" Another voice answers: "Well, who builds anything in this country?"


All these characters staring openly into the camera are reminiscent of Jenkins' visual techniques in his films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, both of which used lots of close-ups in their stories about the Black experience in America. Jenkins won two Oscars, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, for his work on Moonlight.

The Underground Railroad does not have a release date yet, but rest assured the train is coming.

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The Underground Railroad

  • Book
  • Colson Whitehead
  • Doubleday