First Look: Ava DuVernay's The Red Line Tackles Segregated Chicago—and Finds Unexpected Connections


I’m a South Side Chicago born-and-bred native, and the Red Line was my main train line.


As a product of both the Woodlawn area (via my grandma) and the Southwest Side’s “Wild Hunnids” (via my mama), I would often find myself traipsing around the 95th and 87th stops of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Red Line, a 24-hour service running between 95th Street in the South and Howard Street in the North. As the gritty wheels of the “L” screeched on my northbound journey back-and-forth, between street-level, elevated and subway-level all in one line, I couldn’t help but notice something.

With each stop past Cermak-Chinatown or Roosevelt, the sounds of the black man selling loose cigarettes with his “squares, squares” chant quickly turned into the sounds of the white businessman discussing numbers on his phone. The further north we got, the whiter it got. It seemed even more acute on the flip side, when the whiteness noticeably disappeared as we headed back south. Passing Sox-35th, it got blacker and browner. The segregation was real and it was colored with red.


Now comes CBS’ The Red Line, executive produced by Ava DuVernay and Greg Berlanti, an emotional drama following three wildly different Chicago families who must manage to find some semblance of hope and healing after an all-too-familar-to-us tragedy connects them all. The series stars Emayatzy Corinealdi, Noah Wyle, Noel Fisher, Howard Charles, Aliyah Royale, Michael Patrick Thornton, Vinny Chhibber and Elizabeth Laidlaw.

When the title for this project was announced, I thought of it in two ways:

1. The obvious, aforementioned CTA-operated public transportation line.

2. The process of redlining, a systematic zoning process meant to segregate the city amongst racial lines, thereby cutting access to various means to the disenfranchised (i.e. banking, insurance, grocery stores, healthcare, proper schooling, etc.).

Given the inciting incident portrayed in the trailer (a wrongful murder of a black man by a cop) and the dynamics of Chicago’s segregated culture, I am interested to see how this is tackled. I’ll be tuned in.


The Red Line will be an eight-episode event series premiering Sunday, April 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. Each broadcast will include two-hour installments across four Sundays.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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I’m glad this exists. I’m glad for Ava. I’ve watched 90% of her work. I will likely watch this eventually...


I had to stop watching the clip after dude got shot. That scene kicked off some trauma/ptsd/anxiety which is a result from all the residue from knowledge/experience/reality of high profile shootings. 

I’ll stick to cheering for Beth and Randall and promise myself to watch this once the Trump presidency ends or a two or three years from now...whichever comes first.