Scene from The Book of NegroesBET

A little-reported episode of history is the subject of a new miniseries this week on BET. The Book of Negroes, based on Lawrence Hill’s 2007 novel, tells the story of 3,000 slaves who worked for the British during the American Revolution in exchange for freedom in Canada. Unlike previous films about slavery, the protagonist of The Book of Negroes is a woman, Aminata Diallo, who worked for the British, recording the names of the slaves.

Actress Aunjanue Ellis portrays Diallo, a slave who was kidnapped from her native Mali as a child. The film also stars Louis Gossett Jr., whose character is based on a historical figure who helped found Canada’s first black settlement. Ellis and Gossett sat down with The Root to talk about the significance of this project for them.