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Roots

By Tom Keough

From the moment the young Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) is stolen from his life and ancestral home in 18th-century Africa and brought under inhumane conditions to be auctioned as a slave in America, a line is begun that leads from this most shameful chapter in U.S. history to the 20th-century author Alex Haley, a Kinte descendant.

The late Haley's acclaimed book Roots was adapted into this six-volume television miniseries, which was a widely watched phenomenon in 1977. The programs cover several generations in the antebellum South and end with the story of "Chicken" George, a freed slave played by Ben Vereen whose family feels the agony of entrenched racism and learns to fight it.

Between the lives of Kunta and George, we meet a number of memorable characters, black and white, and learn much about the emotional and physical torments of slavery, from beatings and rapes to the forced separation of spouses and families. Nothing like this had ever confronted so many mainstream Americans when the series was originally broadcast, and the extent to which the country was nudged a degree or two toward enlightenment was instantly obvious.

Roots still has that ability to open one's eyes, and engage an audience in a sweeping, memorable drama at the same time.

The series was continued with Roots: The Next Generations.

 

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TV TIDBITS

Aired: January 23, 1977 - September 10, 1978

Cast: LeVar Burton, John Amos, Cicely Tyson, Thalmus Rasulala, Maya Angelou, O.J. Simpson, Ren Woods, Ed Ansner, Ben Vereen, Lorne Greene, Louis Gossett Jr, Vic Morrow, Chuck Connors, Richard Roundtree, Lloyd Bridges, Burl Ives

Network: ABC

Genre: Mini-series (Historical Drama)

Theme song

SpinoffsRoots: The Next Generations

Image courtesy of ABC


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