Them, the new Amazon Prime horror series about suburban racism, begins with some truthful background: “Between 1916 and 1970, roughly 6 million African-Americans relocated from the rural Southern United States to the Northeast, Midwest and West,” a statement at the start of the episode reads.
“Widely known as the Great Migration, many black families were drawn to California by the promise of industrial jobs and a chance to leave the Jim Crow South behind.”
So viewers may wonder if what appears next is also based in truth: “On September 14, 1953, Henry and Livia ‘Lucky’ Emory moved their family from Chatham County, North Carolina to Compton, California.”
You may wonder: Is Them be based on the events experienced by a real family, with the show’s supernatural elements added in for dramatic effect?
The short answer is no.
But Little Marvin, creator of Them, stresses that the show is inspired by the true, lived experiences of many Black people who journeyed out of the South in search of a better life.
“The last four years… had me thinking a lot about the American Dream—who gets their keys to it and who has to fight for their keys,” he says in the show’s press notes. “My father’s family relocated from Alabama to Massachusetts during The Great Migration. My mother, an Indian woman, is an immigrant to America. The African-American migrant and immigrant experiences in America – though obviously unique and varied in myriad ways — are also quite similar. Both fueled by a desire for opportunity. The difference is that Black folks had to fight to make those journeys of opportunity within the boundaries of their own country.”
He began writing the script a few summers ago, and later got Queen & Slim’s Lena Waithe to join him as an executive producer.