Roots (TV Mini-Series 1977) Poster

Roots (TV Mini-Series 1977)

  • Rate: 8.4/10 total 6,696 votes 
  • Genre: Drama | History | War
  • Release Date: 23 January 1977 (USA)
  • Runtime: 60 min (10 episodes)
Our Score
902 user reviews.

User Score (vote now)
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars

You're here : » » Roots (TV Mini-Series 1977)...

ROOTS miniseries premiere - January 1977 ABC-TV Roots 1977 Opening and Closing Themes HD ROOTS Season 1 TRAILER (2016) History Channel Series 

Roots (TV Mini-Series 1977)


Roots TV MiniSeries 1977tt0075572.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: Roots (TV Mini-Series 1977)
  • Rate: 8.4/10 total 6,696 votes 
  • Genre: Drama | History | War
  • Release Date: 23 January 1977 (USA)
  • Runtime: 60 min (10 episodes)
  • Filming Location: Administration Building, Malibu Creek State Park – 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, California, USA
  • Director: Edward Zwick
  • Stars: LeVar Burton, Olivia Cole, Ben Vereen | See full cast and crew
  • Original Music By: Gerald Fried (1 episode, 1977)Quincy Jones (1 episode, 1977) 
  • Soundtrack: Oluwa
  • Sound Mix: Mono
  • Plot Keyword: Family History | America | African American | Slavery | Slave

Writing Credits By:

  • Alex Haley (12 episodes, 1977)
  • James Lee (7 episodes, 1977)
  • M. Charles Cohen (unknown episodes)

Known Trivia

  • The installment which aired in 30 January 1977 in the USA was the most-watched TV show in US history (since surpassed by the M*A*S*H finale in 1983 and “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of Dallas) in 1980. In the US 36.38 million households or 51.1% watched it giving it a Neilsen share of 71%.
  • This was originally to be a four hour presentation airing on two nights, this turned into a twelve hour presentation airing during six nights.
  • The show was programmed by ABC to air on several consecutive nights in prime time. It was considered a revolutionary approach to programming a mini-series, since most minis were aired once or twice a week over several weeks’ time. It was revealed years later that the reason the network did this was so that they get the show “out of the way” in a hurry because they felt, nobody would watch the story if it aired over a longer period of time.
  • Originally broadcast on ABC as eight programs. Four 1-hour and four 2-hour episodes apiece, as follows: Episodes 1, 2, 6 and 8 were two hours apiece. Episodes 3, 4, 5 and 7 were one hour apiece. Presented on VHS, DVD, and re-broadcast as six two-hour episodes.
  • The people playing Kizzy, George, and Tom Harvey were born within three years of each other. Leslie Uggams and Georg Stanford Brown who played Kizzy and Tom were both born in 1943 and Ben Vereen who played George was born in 1946. This means that “Tom” was actually three years older than his “father” and “Kizzy” was three years older than her “son.”
  • The author Alex Haley was sued successfully for plagiarizing by novelist Harold Courlander. The works he plagiarized led to the book that served as the basis for the mini-series Roots. Haley paid $650,000 in an out of court settlement.
  • One ABC executive explained the blockbuster ratings by saying “One third of America was snowed in, one third of America is black and one third watches ABC anyway”
  • Georg Stanford Brown (Tom Harvey) and Lynne Moody (Irene Harvey) are the only actors to reprise their roles in Roots: The Next Generations.
  • LeVar Burton (Kunta Kinte) and Louis Gossett Jr. (Fiddler) would later reprise their roles in Roots: The Gift.
  • The series takes place from 1750 to 1870.

Goofs: Anachronisms: In Episode 1, a crewman on the ship transporting Kunta Kinte to America in 1767 plays a concertina. The instrument was invented in 1829, and was first marketed with the familiar hexagonal body in 1843.

Plot: A dramatization of author Alex Haley's family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte's enslavement to his descendants' liberation. Full summary »

Story: A saga of African-American life, based on Alex Haley’s family history. Kunta Kinte is abducted from his African village, sold into slavery, and taken to America. He makes several escape attempts until he is finally caught and maimed. He marries Bell, his plantation’s cook, and they have a daughter, Kizzy, who is eventually sold away from them. Kizzy has a son by her new master, and the boy grows up to become Chicken George, a legendary cock fighter who leads his family into freedom. Throughout the series, the family observes notable events in U.S. history, such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings, and emancipation. Written byEric Sorensen <>

FullCast & Crew

Produced By:

  • Donald A. Ramsey known as associate producer (2 episodes, 1977)

FullCast & Crew:

  • Olivia Cole known as Mathilda (5 episodes, 1977)
  • Ben Vereen known as 'Chicken' George Moore (5 episodes, 1977)
  • LeVar Burton known as Kunta Kinte / known as (4 episodes, 1977)
  • John Amos known as Toby (4 episodes, 1977)
  • Leslie Uggams known as Kizzy Reynolds (4 episodes, 1977)
  • Carolyn Jones known as Mrs. Moore (4 episodes, 1977)
  • Louis Gossett Jr. known as Fiddler (4 episodes, 1977)
  • Vic Morrow known as Ames (4 episodes, 1977)
  • Chuck Connors known as Tom Moore (4 episodes, 1977)
  • Ji-Tu Cumbuka known as Wrestler (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Edward Asner known as Capt. Thomas Davies (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Ralph Waite known as Slater (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Robert Reed known as Dr. William Reynolds (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Lynda Day George known as Mrs. Reynolds (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Madge Sinclair known as Bell Reynolds (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Scatman Crothers known as Mingo (3 episodes, 1977)
  • George Hamilton known as Stephen Bennett (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Richard Roundtree known as Sam Bennett (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Lloyd Bridges known as Evan Brent (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Georg Stanford Brown known as Tom Harvey (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Brad Davis known as Ol' George Johnson (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Hilly Hicks known as Lewis (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Lynne Moody known as Irene Harvey (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Lane Binkley known as Martha Johnson (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Austin Stoker known as Virgil (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Sandy Duncan known as Missy Anne Reynolds (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Tracey Gold known as Young missy reynolds (3 episodes, 1977)
  • Moses Gunn known as Kintango (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Thalmus Rasulala known as Omoro (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Hari Rhodes known as Brima Cesay (2 episodes, 1977)
  • William Watson known as Gardner (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Renn Woods known as Fanta (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Lorne Greene known as John Reynolds (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Thayer David known as Harlan (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs known as Noah (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Roxie Roker known as Melissa (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Lillian Randolph known as Sister Sara (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Davis Roberts known as Leonard (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Maya Angelou known as Nyo Boto / known as (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Richard McKenzie known as Sam Harvey (2 episodes, 1977)
  • John Quade known as Sheriff Biggs (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Doug McClure known as Jemmy Brent / known as (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Cicely Tyson known as Binta (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Tina Andrews known as Aurelia (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Rebecca Bess known as Girl on Ship (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Henry Butts known as Sitafa (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Joe Dorsey known as Calvert (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Kermit Echols known as Vilars (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Richard Farnsworth known as Slave catcher (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Ronnie Leggett known as Kalila (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Rachel Longaker known as Caroline (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Ernest Thomas known as Kailuba (2 episodes, 1977)



Supporting Department

Makeup Department:

  • Lola 'Skip' McNalley known as hair stylist (2 episodes, 1977)
  • Gene Witham known as makeup artist (unknown episodes)

Art Department:

  • Terry Ballard known as property master (2 episodes, 1977)




Production Companies:

  • David L. Wolper Productions
  • Warner Bros. Television

Other Companies:

  • Cinemobile System  location facilities
  • Neiman-Tillar Associates  sound effects
  • Pacific Title  titles and opticals


  • American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (1977) (USA) (TV) (original airing)
  • Super! Drama TV (2007) (Japan) (TV)
  • TV One (2007) (USA) (TV)
  • Warner Bros. Television
  • Warner Home Video (2005) (Japan) (DVD)
  • Warner Home Video (2008) (Netherlands) (DVD)



Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

Roots (TV Mini-Series 1977) Related Movie & DVD Releases

The Harvey Girls (1946) Movie Poster
Career Opportunities (1991) Movie Poster
Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco (1996) Movie Poster
Platoon Leader (1988) Movie Poster
The Shout (1978) Movie Poster

Posted on September 4, 2013 by Movies DVD New Releases Blu-ray in Movies | Tags: , .


  1. fibreoptic from England
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    There is nothing quite like Roots and i don’t think anything will bedone like it again. I first saw this about 5 years ago and since theni’ve seen it all 3 more times. It is a phenomenal achievement!


    Roots starts off around 1750 when an African baby is born called KuntaKinte and follows his life. He gets enslaved by slavers when he’s 15and is taken to a white supremest America where he is sold at a slavemarket to a Virginian tobacco business man. From there we follow Kuntaall the way through to old age and beyond and after he dies we followhis daughter and when she dies as an old lady we follow her son and soon. Basically the main characters die off and then the newish minorcharacters become main characters as well as there are new characterswhich are brought in from time to time. All the while though the blackpeople are slaves and treated as 3rd class citizens. We see how theystruggle with their hard life and how some of them are happy to beslaves as they’ve never known anything else and how some dream offreedom. Over the years and generations we see good white people,indifferent white people and very bad white people. It passes quicklythrough the war of independence but focuses longer on the civil warmainly because this is the beginning of the end of black slavery inAmerica which leads to the KKK part of Roots.

    After watching Roots it really does feel like you have watched 120years of a families generations. From the beginning where Kunta is bornall the way to the end where a very old Chicken George leads his familyto a new free life. It is quite mind boggling.

    I could write a huge review about this mighty saga but i ain’t got thetime and i doubt anyone would read it anyway. As a white guy i amashamed at how white people treated black people so badly even thoughto a lesser extent that still goes on in the world today.

    The story is amazing, the acting is award winning and i have no quipswith Roots at all apart from one thing. Everyone ages through thisexcept the amazing ageless Mr Moore. Over a span of around 50 years hedoesn’t age a day. When he is first introduced he looks about 50 and 50years later he still looks like 50. I think he must be a Highlander orsomething! LOL

    Of course, Roots was made possible by the writer Alex Haley who was adescendant of Kunta Kinte which is explained at the very end. Irecommend Roots very highly. It’s for people who enjoy history and anengrossing story. You will also get attached to the characters and feela sense of loss when one of them die. I’ve only covered the very basicsand left a ton of stuff out in this review. Just like Schindler’s Listyou have to watch this because it is an important piece of film makingbased on a true story. One word….Brilliant! 10/10

  2. Chei Mi Rose from United States
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    I normally don’t start out this way, but I feel it matters. I am aSouthern White, and I have not seen this movie up until the othernight.

    I thought this mini-series was one of the top three or four I have everseen. Throughout the years since this came out, I never reallybothered, thinking it would be simply white bashing. It was not. I feltit might be in contradiction with the kind people and relatives I grewup knowing. It was not.

    I feel that this mini-series realistically blends black history in withthe history we have been fed from the Northern side as well as theSouthern side.

    Most southerners were not slave owners. They were represented. I thinkthis movie strove to show the kindness in people, as well as thedarkness. I look at the South with fondness, but I know that what thismovie portrayed was true – in spirit, if not fact.

    Sometime after this originally came out there was some controversy overHaley faking some of this. I thought (at the time), A HA! It’s bull!Again, remember that I had not watched it. Upon seeing it I realizedthat though some of this might be fiction, it certainly rang true.

    What I didn’t like about the movie: Watching Sandy Duncan and LeslieUggams play teenagers. The acting was okay. Duncan reminded me of thatspoiled brat in Little House on the Prairie. My guess is that Duncanwas cast so she would look like an adult child and not seem out ofplace compared to Uggams. It is perhaps that during the seventiesHollywood did not want to take such a chance on a youngerAfrican-American to play Kizzy. It was an important role, and oursociety had not allowed Blacks to come into their own. Hollywood seemsto want to force their views on society, yet they are often the last tocome into line.

    John Amos, whom I really like, seemed to be good and bad for his role.Someone said he sounded like he was in "Good Times" at some points. Idon’t feel that way. I do feel that his dialect seemed slightly out ofplace during some moments. He did not detract from the story, though.He carried on Burton’s eternal fight for freedom with the samebullheadedness.

    Ben Vereen: What can I say? When he started doing Variety Shows in theSeventies, I really admired him. He could play instruments, as well assing, dance, and act. He does not disappoint here. I was so sad when helost his role in Silk Stalkings due to an accident. Thankfully he hasrecovered over time.

    Madge Sinclair: What an actress! and beautiful woman, to boot. I didn’tknow she had leukemia during the days I watched her on Trapper John.There were some episodes where she seemed older than her years, thoughalways beautiful. In Roots she manages to capture and portray an innerbeauty and let it shine through her bondage.

    Most of the white actors were well cast, Duncan aside. I didn’t realizehow busy Lloyd Bridges was doing so many mini-series. He makes you hatehim here, so he did his job.

    Ed Asner had a very poignant remark about no one really being free. Itwas that he felt he was becoming a slave to his job. Please do notthink I am comparing the miseries of forced slavery to a large schemeof celestial bondage, but it was pointed out in this film, that at theend of the war, freedom simply meant going from slavery into some otherforced form of servitude. I’m retired, yet I often feel bound togovernment restrictions and the things I am forced to do routinely tosimply maintain my retirement. The African-Americans added to Asner’smoment by later saying that when someone died, the smile on his facemeant he was finally free.

    When Roots came out I remember the cries of many saying, "We now haveour history!" Yes, and it was blended well into all of our histories,as I have mentioned. About five years ago, when my daughter married aman of color, he made her watch Roots. She asked me what I thought ofhim doing that. My response was that she needed to look at all thingsobjectively, and know that most of life is a shade of gray. I alsomentioned that had I been the same city, I would have liked to haveviewed it with them. Now I can at least share my thoughts and hear myson-in-law’s thoughts as well.

    My biggest complaint is that the DVD is already out of print. HUH? Oneof the greatest mini-series ever made and I have to pay scalpers’ feesfor a used copy? (I borrowed my copy from the library) Please, someone!put this in a continual printing, and PLEASE, do not do what you didwith others (cutting whole sections out to save a buck).

    This movie (along with North and South) should be required viewing forall people. For the African-Americans, this movie should be madeavailable forever, so that it does not simply fade into folk and familylore the way that Kunta-Kinte did – with only bits and piecesremaining.

  3. classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    Two of the most important American television programs are "The CivilWar" by Ken Burns (1989), and the epic narrative miniseries "Roots"(1977) based on the book "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" byAlex Haley. Despite the controversy surrounding the book, and the factsof Haley's ancestry (for example, the slave Toby aka "Kunte Kinte", maynever have fathered Kizzy and therefore may not be a direct ancestor ofHaley) the series is an important and ground-breaking work in itsstunning portrayal of slave life in America from the late 18th centuryto the mid-19th century.

    For decades, the United States has been largely in denial of itstreatment of African-Americans both as slaves and later in post-CivilWar periods. The south of the 19th century had fabricated the realityof slave conditions and down-played the brutality inflicted on bothslaves and anti-slave sympathizers. Racial hatred and brutalitycontinued into the 20th century, largely fueled by white traditionsthat have (and continue to) concoct misrepresentations of historicalreality to younger generations. By the middle of the 20th century,nearly 100 years after the end of the American Civil War, PresidentJohnson signed Civil Rights legislation into law with the WhiteSouthern community kicking and screaming all the way. If legislationcouldn't change people's hearts and minds, what could?

    Americans love movies, story-telling/narrative film depictions ofreality. There had never before been a nationally distributed filmproduction that honestly told the story of the African-American slaveexperience. Fourteen years after Johnson's legislation, "Roots" wasbroadcast on national television by the American Broadcasting Company(ABC). I regard those network executives that green-lighted thebroadcast in great esteem for their willingness to take a chance onthis most-important series. I doubt whether US commercial televisionwill ever produce and broadcast such a high-caliber and controversialprogram again in the near future. And to give credit to the Americanviewing public, "Roots" was a huge success.

    From beginning to end, "Roots" is an absolute triumph of filmproduction, the best-ever miniseries offered by a corporate network.The acting and the script are top-notch. Almost every notableAfrican-American acting talent of the time was solicited to join thecast, from LeVar Burton and John Amos (Kunte Kinte, Toby) to Lou GossetJr (Fiddler) to Ben Vareen (Chicken George) to James Earl Jones (AlexHaley). Even OJ Simpson makes an appearance. A lot of notable whitetalent appears as well, such as Ed Asner and Sandy Duncan.

    Slavery is a tragedy and "Roots" is a tragic story. "Roots" has itslight moments, its inspiring moments, although it is its heartbreakingmoments that stay with you: The moment the young African Kunte Kinte isshackled, sold as chattel and forced to board the slave ship bound forAmerica. The whipping of the young Kunte Kinte to "break" him intoslavery. The selling of Kizzy, Toby's daughter, to another slave masterbecause of her involvement with a scheme to help a runaway. These arethe moments that make Roots' larger point. Another aspect that makesRoots effective in its rhetoric is that it never seeps intosentimentality to makes its point. The story relies on an honestnarrative to tell its story. Is it brutal? Yes. Unjust? Definitely. Andthat is what it was. (If you don't believe "Roots", sell yourself intoslavery and see how you like it.)

    Two aspects occur to me about what this story means beyond just theplain inhumanity of the institution of slavery. One aspect is that thebenefit of slavery is terribly minute when compared to the staggeringprice paid by the slaves themselves and everyone else. Simultaneously,non-slaves were pressed into service to maintain slavery as aninstitution. Such titanic sadness, misery, hopelessness brutality, andinhumanity is forced upon people (both slave and non-slave) in returnfor a more comfortable life for a minuscule segment of the population.And yet the amount of work, effort, and money to maintain the inhumaneinfrastructure seems more burdensome than if these people were free.The average white southerner could not afford to own slaves, and manyworked for slave owners as overseers, slave-catchers, auctioneers, andother positions designed to maintain the institution. In short, miseryfor thousands with a little comfort for a few.

    The other tragedy is the denial of positive contribution to society.Those who were slaves were denied giving their love, their knowledge,their inspiration, and their culture to society. All this beautysacrificed so a few white aristocrats can laze around on sofas in frontof fireplaces in giant mansions. Someone once said that if we don'thelp foster the gifts in other people, we run the risk of never seeinghow our world could be made better. Slavery is a tragedy for the peopleenacting it as well, although the suffering aspect is less apparent.

    "Roots" is a story that needs to be told and retold. Shown andre-shown. I would encourage any teacher trying to convey the reality ofslavery in America to consider showing at least a segment or two of"Roots". There is no question that the film is mesmerizing. It saddensme that there are still those in America that want to hang ontosouthern myths that propagate that slavery wasn't that bad. These aresome of the same people that are convinced the holocaust is afabrication. It is better to forgive than the forget. We have toembrace our roots.

  4. Steve West from Adelaide, Australia
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    I was born in 1980, and had heard of Roots from reading about LeVarBurton being the only real "name" to join Star Trek: The NextGeneration. I came across the boxset at my local library and was ableto find out what this "Roots" thing was all about. Having the series onDVD was definitely a boon as (despite being in NTSC) it has a crisp andclear appearance, usually stuff on TV from the 70's or 80's has acharacteristic fuzziness.

    Despite it's lowish budget, and age, Roots has a certain kineticenergy, it kept me interested from the start. Being able to see a youngLeVar Burton was great, and without any visors or contact lenses. Thecasting was excellent all around and the actors put in 100% effort. Myonly bone to pick was using two different actors for Kunta Kinte. Theywere physically very different, John Amos doesn't look, act or soundlike LeVar Burton, which disrupts the sense of continuity the rest ofthe multi-episode characters had.

    By the end I found I had become quite involved with the series andenjoyed seeing it unfold, I liked it so much I viewed the whole ninehours again with commentary (well, I had time to kill). It isinteresting that Roots carries a sense of history (as in the late 70's)and culture with it, it's not just a TV show, there's a whole airsurrounding it. I'm glad I got the opportunity to see it, I gained aclearer understanding of where African-Americans as a people are comingfrom, and I hope everyone who hasn't seen it yet gets the opportunityto do so.

  5. sbrnnxn from usa
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    In 1977 I was 10 years old, and all I remember is the majority of the citywhere I live was watching Roots each day for a week. I recently bought thevideo and watched it with my now 10 year old son, who is Black and I showhim the importance of getting an education because our ancestors weren’tallowed such luxuries. At his age everything is rosy just like it was when Iwas 10, but hopefully he can reflect back on this movie to motivate him inthe future.

    Great cast of characters-even though I didn’t realize that O.J. Simpson wasin it! John Amos was the best and the funniest especially when he keptlosing his character’s African accent and sounding more like "James" on GoodTimes! Overall the movie is very touching and will have you experiencingmixed emotions if you’re of the Black race, and have compassion if you’re ofother races that haven’t experienced such things. I highly recommend thisfilm and a book called the Miseducation of the Negro as Black familyheirlooms-or for anyone who wants to be enlightened concerning a portion ofBlack history.

  6. Miyagis_Sweaty_wifebeater ( from Sacramento, CA
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    Roots (1977) is still the best mini-series. This highly watched dramaset the bar for all of the epic television dramas. The series followsthe life of Kunta Kinte and his descendants from the coasts of WestAfrica to the plantation fields of the American south. This show pullsno punches when dealing with the sad truths about how many slaves wereshipped from their homelands and (if they survived the horrificoverseas trip) forced to work in the fields. Even though Kunta was aslave, he never lost hope about one day his ancestors would once againhave the freedom he once had. He also vowed that his ancestors wouldnever forget their roots, old ways and customs.

    Kunta always tried to head for freedom whenever the chance came. Evenwhen the slave catchers cut off a piece of his foot, that neverdeterred him from running. But his marriage and child kept him fromrunning when he had the opportunity. He named his only daughter Kizzy(Mandinka for staying put). Years later, Kizzy is sold to Tom Moore whouses his slaves not only for workers but for "comfort women: as well.She has a mixed child named Chicken George who like his grandfatheralso dreams about freedom and does whatever he can to make sure thathe's a free man.

    Awesome show and it still holds up well, The one thing I really got ahoot out of was seeing some of the well known liberal actors inHollywood play some of the most despicable characters you'll ever wantto see (Ralph Waite, Lloyd Bridges, Vic Morrow). The story and actingis top notched and it's definitely a heart string puller.

    Highest recommendation possible.

  7. cubiegirl from Springfield, IL
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    I recently viewed all of this Mini series on the Hallmark Channel, and letme say, it was amazing! I was born 3 years after Roots was on televisionand never had the chance to see it growing up. I knew that Hallmark wasshowing it, so I made plans to see all 6 parts this week. It made meangry,it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me happy, it made me open myeyes.The range of emotions ran the table this week. Now I know why it got allthe acclaim that it rightly deserves.

  8. Dr Jacques COULARDEAU from Olliergues, France
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    This TV mini-series has become a classic in some twenty or thirty yearsand it deserves to be, both in its first part and in its second part.Yet the quality of the filming and editing has aged and the film is notserved by the fact it was done for television that tends to show toomany close-ups and to avoid vast rapid movements and wide landscapes.But it has become a classic by the theme it deals with. The first miniseries deals with the fate of black people from when they were capturedin Africa to their liberation after the Civil War. The vision of Africain the 18th century is slightly improved on what it was. Some ritualsare nicely evoked but not shown, circumcision for example, and nothingis said about excision for the girls. The capturing of Bantu blacks inwestern Africa and their enslaving had been going on for centuries. Thenew thing is that the captured Bantu blacks were no longer sold asslaves to the northern Moslem tribes or even Moslem Maghreb people, butto the whites for only one reason: the whites paid better and more.This is not done out of decency. It seems to be done in order to avoidany rejection for the family public, any restrictive rating. It is thesame thing with the whole period about slavery. The film concentrateson odious facts but all together rather limited facts: one whipping, acouple of children sold, very few rapes by the whites in order toproduce mulattoes that could be sold for a profit. The hardships offield work are also curbed a lot. The living conditions and quarterswere quite luxurious when we know what it really was. Even the CivilWar is shown with a lot of reserve. They may say the number of dead butthey don't show the battles, the medical care of the wounded, thesavagery of the war itself and the innumerable amputees and othervictims after the war. Altogether the first part is rather tamed. Thatof course enhances the main theme of this first part, and also of thesecond part, the fact that one has to retain the memory of one'sorigins, roots, past, even if it is only a name, a few words, a fewepisodes. It is those recollections passed from one generation to thenext that feed and strengthen the sense of belonging, the hope thatwill bring the future out of the present, the light that may one dayilluminate the dull and dark present. One day at a time but always withthe past in the conscious background. And the joy of the liberation isimportant, but the first part ends on a closure too: the whites arestill there and the blacks have to live with them and compromises arenot always easy to find and not always to the real benefit of theblacks. Slavery is replaced by sharecropping but what's the differencewhen the black sharecroppers start with the debts that are attributedto them to pay for what they need to work and they should get freesince they worked for nothing for decades. That's how it works with thewhites in the South, and yet the family we are speaking of managed tofinagle a plan to get the mules free and to move out without paying forthe debts of slavery from North Carolina to Tennessee where one freedmember who got the chance to make some wealth in England had boughtsome land. That's the real freedom this family achieves after the Civilwar: to possess the land they till and thus the harvest they grow.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, UniversityParis 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID

  9. giftgas from United States
    04 Sep 2013, 9:00 pm

    Taken from

    January 16, 2002 — ON Friday, NBC will air a special commemorating the25th anniversary of the landmark miniseries based on Alex Haley's book"Roots." Ironically, the original series aired on ABC – but officialsat that network took a pass on broadcasting the tribute.

    What's truly amazing, however, is that "Roots" is receiving areverential tribute at all. For while the miniseries was a remarkable -and important – piece of television, the book on which it was based hasnow been widely exposed as a historical hoax.

    Unfortunately, the general public is largely unaware of how Haley'smonumental family autobiography, stretching back to 18th-centuryAfrica, has been discredited.

    Indeed, a 1997 BBC documentary expose of Haley's work has been bannedby U.S. television networks – especially PBS, which would normallywelcome such a program.

    Coincidentally, the "Roots" anniversary comes amid the growing scandalover disclosures of historian Stephen Ambrose's multiple incidents ofplagiarism. Because as Haley himself was forced to acknowledge, a largesection of his book – including the plot, main character and scores ofwhole passages – was lifted from "The African," a 1967 novel by whiteauthor Hal Courlander.

    But plagiarism is the least of the problems in "Roots." And they wouldlikely have remained largely unknown, had journalist Philip Nobile notundertaken a remarkable study of Haley's private papers shortly beforethey were auctioned off.

    The result was featured in a devastating 1993 cover piece in theVillage Voice. It confirmed – from Haley's own notes – earlier claimsthat the alleged history of the book was a near-total invention.

    "Virtually every genealogical claim in Haley's story was false," Nobilehas written. None of Haley's early writing contains any reference tohis mythic ancestor, "the African" named Kunta Kinte. Indeed, Haley'slater notes give his family name as "Kante," not "Kinte."

    And a long-suppressed tape of the famous session in which Haley "found" Kunta Kinte through the recitation of an African "griot" provesthat, as BBC producer James Kent noted, "the villagers (were)threatened by members of Haley's party. These turn out to be seniorgovernment officials desperate to ensure that things go smoothly."

    Haley, added Kent, "specifically asks for a story that will fit hispredetermined American narrative."

    Historical experts who checked Haley's genealogical research discoveredthat, as one put it, "Haley got everything wrong in his pre-Civil Warlineage and none of his plantation ancestors existed; 182 pages have nobasis in fact."

    Given this damning evidence, you'd think Haley's halo would long agohave vanished. But – given this week's TV tribute – he remains aliterary icon. Publicly, at least.

    The judge who presided over Haley's plagiarism case admitted that "Idid not want to destroy him" and so allowed him to settle quietly -even though, he acknowledged, Haley had repeatedly perjured himself incourt.

    The Pulitzer Prize board has refused to reconsider Haley's prize,awarded in 1977 – in what former Columbia President William McGill,then a board member, has acknowledged was an example of "inverseracism" by a bunch of white liberals "embarrassed by our makeup."

    Yet the uniqueness of "Roots" is that it was presented as factualhistory, albeit with fictional embellishments. Haley himself stressedthat the details came from his family's oral history and had beencorroborated by outside documents.

    But Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard, a Haley friend, concedesthat it's time to "speak candidly," adding that "most of us feel it'shighly unlikely that Alex actually found the village from whence hisancestors came.

Leave a Reply