Roots is a 1977 American television miniseries based on Alex Haley's work Roots: The Saga of an American Family, his critically acclaimed genealogical novel.
Roots was a ground-breaking event in U.S.A. television history, receiving 37 Emmy Award-nominations. It went on to win 9 Emmys, a Golden Globe, and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen Ratings (with the finale still standing as the 3rd highest rated U.S. program ever, behind the series finale of M*A*S*H and the resolution to "Who Shot J.R.?" on Dallas) and captivated American television audiences, successfully crossing racial lines and piquing the interest of families in all ethnic groups.
The series and its 1979 sequel Roots: The Next Generations featured many African American actors at all levels of experience. The program introduced LeVar Burton in the role of Kunta Kinte. It also starred Louis Gossett Jr. as Fiddler
. A second sequel, Roots: The Gift, was also produced as a Christmas movie and is widely considered inferior to the other two entries in the series, despite the fact that LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett Jr. star.
Roots and the book it was adapted from revived interest in oral and genealogical history among all segments of the population. It also spurred an interest in African or African sounding names; Kizzy
(played by Leslie Uggams), for example, became popular for African-American baby girls. Even an entire generation later, famous black American comedian Dave Chappelle satirized the TV series in a popular sketch aired on his Chappelle's Show.
The series was directed by Marvin J. Chomsky, John
Erman, David Greene and Gilbert Moses. It was produced by Stan Margulies; David L. Wolper was executive producer. The now-familiar score was composed by Gerald Fried and Quincy Jones.
Alex Haley narrates the last few minutes of the series, where photos of him appear along with other people who connect him as the 9th generation from Kunte Kinte's grandmother to him.
In the Gambia, West Africa, in 1750, a baby boy, Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) is born to Mandinka warrior Omoro Kinte (Thalmus Rasulala) and his wife Binta (Cicely Tyson). When their son reaches the age of 15, he and a group of other adolescent males take part in a tribal ceremony known as the "coming of manhood." After the ceremony, Kunta is considered to be a man, and a Mandikan warrior. However, white slave traders from Colonial America come to the Gambia and capture natives to be slaves. Kunta is among those captured. During the course of their forced journey, a group of slaves rebel, but fail to take over the ship. After months of travel to America, the ship lands in Annapolis, Maryland, where the captured Africans are sold as slaves. After being sold to different masters, Kunta Kinte is separated from his friend Fanta
, and he is forced to take the slave name of Toby. An older slave named Fiddler is charged with teaching Toby the ways of being a slave, including learning English. In his desperate struggle to survive, he makes several attempts to escape. Eventually, he adapts to his harsh lifestyle, but only after having half his foot chopped off to keep him from attempting further escapes. Toby / Kunta Kinte learns then what it means to be a slave, but still remembers his Mandinkan roots and what it was to once be free.
- From Wikipedia