BBC Two has acquired Enslaved: The Lost History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and created a new four-part docuseries featuring Hollywood icon Samuel L. Jackson following a deal with global producer and distributor Fremantle.

Enslaved is a Canada/UK co-production between Toronto-based Associated Producers and London-based Cornelia Street Productions in association with CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster, and documentary Channel in Canada and EPIX in the U.S.

Enslaved sheds new light on 400 years of human trafficking, as millions of enslaved Africans were shipped to the Americas by Western European slave traders.

Over 12 million people were kidnapped and sold into slavery. At least two million perished en route at sea. Using new diving technology – such as advanced 3D mapping and ground-penetrating radar – to locate and examine sunken slave ships on three continents, the series reveals an entirely new perspective on the history of the transatlantic slave trade.

At dive sites that include the UK, the Caribbean  and Florida, an experienced team of deep-sea divers search for and locate  ships that sank drowning the enslaved humans aboard. Meanwhile on land, experts investigate the stories behind related locations,  in Ghana, England and the Americas.

Scientific detective work, clues from retrieved underwater artefacts, reportage and dramatic reconstruction combine to serve as a platform for examining the ideology, economics and politics of the transatlantic slave trade, as well as for sharing details of historical events and the personal stories of forgotten lives – both of the enslaved people and their European captors.

Each episode follows  separate story lines: the location and investigation of sunken slave ships, and a historical analysis of the transatlantic slave trade led by Jackson, author Afua Hirsch and  investigative journalist Simcha Jacobovici.

Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two, says: “I had the privilege to meet with Samuel L Jackson, Afua Hirsch and Simcha Jacobovici at the start of their production last year and I was determined to bring their essential, hugely ambitious and important series to the BBC. These are stories that demand to be told and which sit at the very centre of our shared history.

Jamie Lynn, EVP, Head of EMEA Distribution who brokered the deal at Fremantle said: “With Black History Month just weeks away, it’s a real privilege to be able to announce such a pertinent partnership with the BBC and create a platform for audiences young and old across the UK to engage with this landmark series. British viewers will also be fascinated to see Bristol’s role in this history, as writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch visits the now infamous – and since toppled – statue of Edward Colston. With impressive and ground-breaking production values, this is an unmissable look at a near lost history.”

Premiering in the U.S. as a six-part series, Enslaved: The Lost History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade has been re-versioned to a 4 x 60 series for BBC Two in collaboration and with approval from the producers. It was acquired for the BBC from Fremantle by Patrick Holland, Controller BBC Two and Mandy Chang, Commissioning Editor and Head of Factual Acquisitions.

Simcha Jacobovici serves as series director. Enslaved is executive produced by Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Eli Selden, Rob Lee, Simcha Jacobovici, Ric Esther Bienstock, Sarah Sapper and Yaron Niski, and produced by Ric Esther Bienstock, Sarah Sapper and Felix Golubev.  Produced in association with Anonymous Content, along with UppiTV, Samuel and LaTanya Jackson’s television production company. Fremantle will distribute both the 6 x 60 and the 4 x 60 versions of the series internationally.

Jon Creamer