Netflix Cleopatra Docuseries From Jada Pinkett Smith Slammed for ‘Blackwashing’ History

Queen Cleopatra (Credit: Netflix)

The upcoming Netflix documentary series, Queen Cleopatra, has been met with fierce backlash in Egypt because of its depiction of Queen Cleopatra as Black.

The four-part docuseries, which is scheduled to premiere on May 10, is accused of trying to “erase the Egyptian identity.”

Critics have even launched a petition demanding the show’s cancellation.

“Cleopatra was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the Ptolemaic dynasty to Greek descent. She was NOT Black,” the petition says. “There are many great African/Black civilizations, but Egypt was/is NOT one of them. Sign the petition to stop the falsification of history!”

As of Thursday evening, the petition had just over 4,400 signatures.

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Queen Cleopatra (Credit: Netflix)
Queen Cleopatra (Credit: Netflix)

A top archaeologist in Egypt has also publicly criticized the show’s depiction of Cleopatra, whose race has long been the subject of historical debate.

“This is completely fake. Cleopatra was Greek, meaning that she was light-skinned, not Black,” archaeologist Zahi Hawass told the al-Masry al-Youm newspaper, according to the BBC.

“Netflix is trying to provoke confusion by spreading false and deceptive facts that the origin of the Egyptian civilization is Black,” added Hawass, who is a former antiquities minister.

Hawass said the only rulers of Egypt known to have been Black were the Kushite kings of the 25th Dynasty (747-656 BC). He called on Egyptians to take a stand against Netflix for violating media laws.

On Sunday, Egyptian lawyer Mahmoud al-Semary filed a complaint with a public prosecutor demanding access to the streaming service be blocked.

He alleged Queen Cleopatra violates Egypt’s media laws and said Netflix is trying to “promote the Afrocentric thinking.”

Meanwhile, Jada Pinkett Smith, who executive produced and narrated the series, is defending the project.

“We don’t often get to see or hear stories about Black queens, and that was really important for me, as well as for my daughter, and just for my community to be able to know those stories because there are tons of them!” Pinkett Smith said in a statement obtained by Urban Hollywood 411.

“The sad part is that we don’t have ready access to these historical women who were so powerful and were the backbones of African nations,” she added.

The series stars British actress Adele James, who is biracial, as Queen Cleopatra VII.

Along with Pinkett Smith, executive producers include Terence Carter, Miguel Melendez and Sahara Bushue for Westbrook Studios, along with Jane Root and Ben Goold for Nutopia.

Queen Cleopatra is written by Peres Owino and NneNne Iwuji. The trailer is below.