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Series: Roots

"Kunta Kinte, behold the only thing greater than yourself!"
Omoro Kinte

Roots was a Mini Series presenting a dramatized account about author Alex Haley's family line and their struggles coping with slavery from ancestor Kunta Kinte's enslavement to his Civil War descendants' liberation. Based on a novel by Haley.

First broadcast in late January and early February 1977, the series was a tremendous success, prompting new public interest in genealogy and, in regard to television, established the Mini Series as a high profile prestige format for prime time.

The first Roots, the generally better received one, went only up through the Civil War, while a 1979 Sequel, Roots: The Next Generations, picked up in 1865 and went through to Alex Haley himself, culminating in Haley visiting Kunte Kinte's home village in the 1970s.

1988 brought a third (fictional) entry: Roots: The Gift. This was a single two-hour side story, bringing back LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte. As a piece of trivia, this film features a few actors who would be in Star Trek productions, just as Burton was. Avery Brooks (Captain Benjamin Sisko), Kate Mulgrew (Captain Kathryn Janeway), and Tim Russ (Lieutenant Tuvok).


This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: The Tear Jerker variety - it's Kunta Kinte, not Toby.
  • Adult Fear: Being powerless to stop your children from being abducted, or from being raped by your superiors.
  • Arc Words: "(Name), behold! The only thing greater than yourself!"; in the later episodes, the story each generation of Kunta Kinte's family tells about their family tree.
  • Artistic License - History: Though the series is (rightly) praised for its unflinching depiction of the brutality of the Atlantic slave trade, its depiction of White "slave catchers" is a bit historically inaccurate. In Real Life, though the slave trade itself was facilitated by European and American traders, most African slaves were physically captured by other Africans who took them as prisoners in intertribal battles and sold them for profit—not by Whites who travelled into the interior of Africa to quietly ambush slaves one by one. This involvement of some Africans in others' enslavement is mentioned in the series but not directly shown.
  • All There in the Manual: There is a somewhat obscure special called: Roots: The Gift that takes place between Parts 2 and 3 of the series that explains how Kunta and Fiddler moved to Reynolds's plantation.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie: Well, maybe not an intentional lie. But while the book was classified as a novel, and Haley admitted that many of the events were his invention, he also claimed that he had really traced his ancestry back seven generations, to a West African man named Kunta Kinte who was kidnapped by slavers and sent into slavery in the American South. In fact, as The Other Wiki notes, the documentary evidence contradicts Haley's accounts, and the oral histories and testimony he relied on is unreliable and contradictory as well. There is little to suggest that any of Haley's history before Chicken George is factual.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: The cockfight.
  • Big "NO!"/Say My Name: KUNTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Pettijohn refusing to stick his neck out again for Simon Haley and help save Ab Dekker.
  • False Friend: Missy Anne who did nothing to try to save Kizzy after her uncle sold her to another slave owner, and had the gall to feel betrayed for Kizzy helping out some abolitionists.
  • Family Drama: Extended multigenerational.
  • Generational Saga
  • I Die Free
  • Large Ham: George "Chicken George" Moore
  • Made a Slave: Kunta Kinte.
  • Mini Series
  • The Man Is Keeping Us Down: And how! There are a couple of sympathetic whites, though, particularly George Johnson and his wife.
  • Pet the Dog: Some of the masters have a couple of moments that could count — even Tom Moore.
  • Playing Gertrude: The actress playing Kizzy was 3 years older than the guy who played her son, Chicken George. (necessary though, since she also played a younger version of Kizzy.)
  • Prison Riot: One happens in the slave ship transporting Kunta Kinte.
  • Rite of Passage: During the first episode, the adolescent boys of the village are taken out to a remote area and subjected to several rites of passage.
  • Timeshifted Actor: A couple, but specifically LeVar Burton and John Amos as young and old Kunta Kinte.
  • Stock Subtitle: Roots the Next Generations.
  • 2 + Torture = 5: "Your name is TOBY!"
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Kunta Kinte/Toby

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alternative title(s): Roots
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