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They Canceled “Underground” Because White People Don’t Like Non-Compliant Slaves

Seeing black people take charge of their lives, fighting oppression with violence, and utilizing their intellect, must be a hard sell to an all-white board of directors who hope to be the next Fox News.

The news of WGN’s pre-civil war drama, Underground getting canceled is the latest in a slew of cancellations across mass media with powerful, defiant black leads. On Tuesday, WGN America released their obligatory “going in the a new direction” explanation. But let’s face it – white folks don’t enjoy non-compliant and assertive black folks in real life or on their screens.

The true fans knew it was some nonsense, and Underground actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who plays Rosalee, took to Instagram with this explanation:

So I looked up Sinclair Broadcast Group, they operate all over the country but not in most major cities. Their board of directors is made up entirely of white, cishet men. On May 8, Sinclair announced they had purchased WGN America and as the first order of business, they removed Underground from the network before the month’s conclusion.

I will be the first to admit that another narrative with slaves running through muck for their lives, suffering from severe physical and mental trauma because of white people and slavery, was not what I was looking for in a TV show. However, the writers and executive producers who include John Legend, have taken a different approach in this slave era narrative.


The main characters Rosalee and Noah are runaway slaves, and in the second season they team up with the one and only Harriet ‘Moses’ Tubman to free more families from captivity. There was one episode featuring Harriet, who is played by Aisha Hinds, preaching to a group of abolitionists about the physical and psychological toll of slavery and its connection to black people’s need for faith. That episode alone is Emmy-worthy, and one more reason we are all sitting here with giant question marks above our heads.

In Underground, the main characters are fighting and evading slave catchers, killing them and risking it all for their freedom. The enslaved people are thinkers, quick on their feet and courageous. The narrative is a strong juxtaposition to the true story and Academy Award winning film, 12 Years a Slave where the main character has to beg and finesse himself into freedom and use his skills for the betterment of a plantation. In the end, it is the kindness of a white person which saves the protagonist.

The producers of Underground show appreciation to what really happened but are forgoing the idea that slaves were passive and compliant– they are providing a historical reprieve from white oppression. Sinclair Broadcast Group came in, projected their white gaze and said, “enough of that shit,” and cancelled the show.


Seeing black people take charge of their lives, fighting oppression with violence, and utilizing their intellect, must be a hard sell to an all-white board of directors who hope to be the next Fox News. I remember Ms. Hattie McDaniel and her Academy Award win as Mammy in Gone With the Wind and I cannot help but think that this is the image more palatable to white people.

On a bad night, Underground brought in half a million viewers. The other prime time television offering, Salem struggles to bring in half that. The numbers don’t add up so we cannot help but think if Rosalee had not stabbed the overseer who was going to rape her, we would not even be having this conversation.

At this time, the producers of Underground are searching for a new home. You can support them by reaching out to your favorite streaming sources and new viewers can watch both seasons on Hulu.


Featured Image: WGN




Hi! I am Joy! My hair, glasses, and lippies change with the Michigan weather. I am passionate about educating black and brown youth, finishing all the food on my plate, and traveling to regions of the world which produce good fruit. My flavor is Igbo original flavor from Nigeria. I have two kids, one for each of my degrees, and a husband I got during a scam. You can follow my shade on Facebook: Joy Mohammed and on Instagram/ Twitter: @joyistheculture

  • Tina

    I am a WHITE 49 year old woman and this show touched me in so many ways. The hardships, the abuse, the struggle they faced just to remain human and alive is so inspiring to me add should be to anyone who watches it. I’m from Georgia and I know very few black people. Not because I’m racist but because I’ve never been around them. I would have been one of thepeople helping every slave I could to escape that brutality. Love all people! That’s how I livemy life. Don’t think because I’m white that I hate black purple our purple of any color.

    May 30, 2021
  • Paula

    This was and is a fabulous show. I can’t believe there won’t be a season 3. Who do you have to petition to get this picked up and get a 3rd season. The actors in this show are unbelievably talented and I was on the edge of my seat, anxious for their safety and was completely absorbed in this show that I binged for 4 days straight. And yes I am a white 60 something year old so maybe the white corporate money men don’t like it’s powerful statement. But I loved it.

    May 11, 2021
  • Anonymous

    It wasn’t his son, it was his son and daughters older brother by a murdered father

    Mar 2, 2021
  • halimacandy



    Jun 21, 2019
  • Michel

    Sinclaire media is a story in and of itself. They have taken over the news broadcasting in smaller markets in America and plant stories with a conservative ideological slant. To generalize this reality in newsmedia to “this is how white folks or white people think” is a mistake. Not all white people own TV stations and not all white folks are conservatives. We all have to think smarter in order for things to get better.

    Jun 21, 2019
  • Georgette Goodner

    Hopefully BET or VH1 will pick this incredible show up…

    Jun 21, 2019
  • Ramona

    What’s WRONG, with having a show about TRUE to life experiences of slaves and POST SLAVERY portraying the struggles caused by WHITE SUPREMACY. I want to understand WHY are BLACK PEOPLE so hated and despised by Whites YET so needed for THEIR survival on this planet!

    Jun 20, 2019
  • John Jones

    Mostly nonsense. Hell, “they” canceled Underground for two reasons: WGN was sold and the new parent company canceled ALL of its scripted programming and very few people actually watched Underground relative to its expensive per episode cost, including Black people.

    Jun 4, 2019
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