The six-part series will contain five different stories set in London's West Indian community between the 1960s and 1980s. The title is derived from a Jamaican proverb, "If you are the big tree, we are the small axe."
McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Widows) is directing, executive producing and has crafted the show's stories with Alastair Siddons and Courttia Newland.
Malachi Kirby, Shaun Parkes, Rochenda Sandall, Alex Jennings and Jack Lowden also star.
Small Axe will air on the BBC in the U.K. and through Amazon's streaming service in the U.S. Production has started in London.
"I felt that these stories needed to be shared," McQueen said in a statement. "I wanted to relive, reevaluate and investigate the journeys that my parents and the first generation of West Indians went on to deliver me here today calling myself a Black British person. What's important about our stories is that they are local but at the same time global."
"I think audiences will identify with the trails, tribulations and joy of our characters as well as reflecting on the present environment in which we find ourselves," McQueen continued. "The dynamic nature of the series allows us to confront injustice in the face of adversity."