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One of the best mini-series to grace the small screen. Told through
span of several generations of writer Authur Haley's ancestors. The
depiction of the slave era is at times hard to watch but should be seen
by all. The stellar cast brings both young (at that time) talent and
many veteran stars of both the big and small screen. Both Levar Burton,
and John Amos bring to life the story of Mandinka tribesman Kunta Kinte
who is taken into chains from his African homeland to Colonial America
and sold into slavery.
This series does not hold back either the depiction of native African life nor the language and violence of slave life in America. If you have a younger audience you might want to talk some about the content but nothing is presented in the series that is not done to the highest standard and quality.
Back in 1999, not too long before I became a teenager, I got to see
this 1977 mini-series on TV. I didn't catch the very beginning, but
started watching at one point during the first episode, and then
watched the rest of the episodes from start to finish as they aired
weekly. I had no clue what "Roots" was about when I started watching,
so I was in for some surprises, and it was one unforgettable
experience! I've finally watched the hit mini-series again after eight
years (all of it this time), but by this time, I had learned that it
appears it's not what I thought it was for many years!
This mini-series is an adaptation of the book of the same name, written by Alex Haley, which is supposed to be about his family history. It starts with Kunta Kinte, who is born in an African village in 1750. Sadly, as a teenager, he is kidnapped by slave traders and taken across the Atlantic Ocean to America, where he is sold into slavery and given the name Toby. From there, the story focuses on the life of Kunta as a slave on a plantation in Virginia, and then his descendants in the next several generations that follow.
Haley has received a lot of praise for tracing back his ancestry so far and writing about it, but there seems to be a lot of evidence indicating that he didn't really do it, and his story is a fraud. Obviously, he would have had to make SOME things up for the story, but apparently, he plagiarized a lot of it from a book called "The African", written by an author named Harold Courlander, which he was sued for. It has also been revealed that the story is mostly fictional. Many have pointed these things out already, and I'm just trying to put them into my own words. I'm not going to say anything else about it, but you could easily find a lot more information elsewhere.
The reason why I have given this adaptation of "Roots" a 6/10 is that despite what I've mentioned above, it's still an interesting story, with some very moving scenes! Some parts may not have been scripted as well as they could have been, but overall, it's a VERY memorable mini-series. For that, I give it an above average rating, but would give it a higher one if it weren't for the negative things I've learned about it. The fact that it was presented as a family history when it really isn't, and is still advertised as such today (like I saw on the back of the DVD set) just isn't right. It's common for films based on true stories to be very inaccurate, but "Roots" isn't even really based on a true story! So, it's not a bad mini-series, but don't watch it thinking it's what it says it is (like I once did).
The concept of your beginning or the beginning that led up to you is Universal and applies to everyone. Who wouldn't find their own ancestry fascinating? That's why this was a ground-breaking event never before scene and why it captured vast audiences for decades. Even today, it continues to beckon to anyone who watches the show to ask your personal questions of your own start-up. I remember at the time this came out on TV, the black people were in desperate need of something to hope for of which Martin Luther King had supplied and had done so successfully before his death. Right after these episodes were aired, a discovery of something greater than your hopeless daily day to day existence was introduced and people started believing in themselves and that they mattered. That's how powerful this series was. Of course today, the worth of a human being doesn't require prompting or remembering as we all have discovered that we matter. Kudos to all those that were able to be a part of this life-changing event. Sorry to say but necessary to be told is the shameful part of history where one race thought them selves superior to another and used degradation, pride, and perversion to assert this. Slavery had been going on since mankind matured and traveled the globe respecting no one. The strong preyed upon the weak. What makes it so unacceptable is that it took place in America proving that there is no perfect place to live but instead, lots of work to be done first with the self, then with each other and of course unto God the one who started it all up to begin with. Even sadder still, slavery and trade in humans exists to this day. Have a finger snack and a tasty drink ready to go when watching. Also, there are some scenes that just yank on your emotions and teach us if anything NOT to do what was being done on screen besides tugging at your innards with disgust. It is well said by Toby in one episode who after being unduly and harshly punished for causing trouble best..."how can one man do this to another man" How indeed....
Let me start off by saying I don't hate this series. In fact, it is
actually quite good. The problem is Roots has become somewhat of a
black culture idealization of what slavery was like, and it is not even
In the 18th century, the West African slave trade was a seasoned machine, and other than the Portuguese, "white men" rarely set foot on the continent for more than a few weeks, as they lacked the immunities to fight off many of the diseases that were prevalent in the region. As such, the slave trade was really conducted at the auction block, after the slaves were captured. "White men" didn't often go and capture their slaves themselves, they bought them from tribesman and other more prominent African slave traders. The concept of owning slaves has existed well before the invention of the boat, so until the invention of the boat and then the pressures from the Catholic church and other churches to stop enslaving its own people, slavery was a way of life that rarely migrated beyond the immediate reaches of that particular countries borders.
It is only in recent centuries that slavery crossed oceans, a time when everybody was purchasing slaves. Half the population of Ireland was wiped out, lots of poor European countries were wiped out, the Philippines even up until the early 1900's, West Africa, East Africa, China, Russia, etc. There is obviously an agenda with Roots as the writer has personal feelings of animosity however I feel the historical inaccuracy for the beginning of this mini-series seriously hurts the amount of respect I can give to the show as a whole.
Like I said its good if you are looking at it as a fictional show and nothing more, but if you ever use Roots to combat someone who actually knows history, you will lose every time.
Roots trivializes the slave trade for the black community and creates a slanted view at the atrocities that existed far before a black man was ever enslaved.
I would have no problem with this movie and book if it word told as a fictional story. what disgusts me is that Alex Haley wrote this as an "Accurate tale of his family history" or his "roots." the problem is that in his "true account" Haley plagiarized from a FICTIONAL author. This author was a Caucasian who enjoyed traveling, and in his travels found a deep love for folklore. In particular he discovered an interest in African folklore, and spent several years going to villages and collecting very intriguing tales from different people in different African tribes. A very noble endeavor in the realm of fiction. But Haley's plagiarism is much worse than a petty crime, it shows the falsity of his book. I'm not talking sentences, I'm talking entire paragraphs, entire childhood accounts. If you want to watch this as fiction go ahead, but please do not watch this as a history lesson, because it's simply not.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roots the miniseries is based on the book Roots written by Alex Haley and is said to be the story of a line of his ancestors that he traced back to an African named Kunta Kinte who was kidnapped from Africa in 1766 or 1767 as part of the slave trade and sold into slavery in Annapolis Maryland in 1767. The story starts with Kunta's birth in 1750 and shows his capture and trip to America. And it shows him being sold into slavery and him being taken to a plantation in Virginia. He is given the name Toby and resists being called that and being a slave. The series follows his life and his descendants lives up to 1870. Alex Haley was accused of plagiarizing some of Roots from a book called The African and Haley's claims that he had traced his ancestry to a very specific individual and village in Africa were refuted by researchers but the series does give an accurate view of slavery in general terms. The series is amazing at showing the bad stuff slaves suffered and the cruelness of whites. And it is extremely moving. This is arguably the best or one of the best things ever filmed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Soon after this mini-series first came out on television, I remember
that the biggest 'shock' that was written about and publicized wasn't
about the cruelty and unfairness of slavery; or, the praising of its
all-star cast and production; or, even Alex Haley's achievements as a
writer!?!? It was about the actor, Ralph Waite (Daddy Walton on "The
Waltons") - the once family-friendly patriarch of a nice family now
using racially-degrading terms!?!? WHAT!?!? That's what people found
most important about this mini-series...a talented 'white' actor being
criticized for portraying a white-slave-trader 'character,' written
about by a talented 'black' writer!?!? What was he supposed to
do...pass-up the role? If he had, someone else would have done it!
Since then, I've read a lot of reviews, on and off of IMDb, about how this isn't really based upon Alex Haley's own 'roots;' how it's plagiarized from another writer; that it's altogether 'fake;' etc; etc. Who cares!?!? This series depicts human nature and how people were throughout an old period in American History...EVERY American's American HISTORY!
It's a great read as a book, and, a great achievement as a mini-series! Whether or not these events happened in-full or in-part as they are depicted, they had to have happened somewhere at some time. Maybe in Africa, Asia, and/or South America during their European colonization; maybe in Asia when Japan raped Nanking, China, and, other nations before and during World War II; maybe in Africa, or, anywhere else in the world (Europe; Native America; etc.), when one tribe of people enslaved another; etc.
If any or all of this is the case...then, "Roots" isn't only an 'American' story...it's a worldwide "HUMAN" story. A story of mankind's darker side in general - about what happens when 'any' powerful people invade and enslave 'any other' weaker people, anywhere in the world, past and present.
If that's the case, then, 'this' is the 'real' "GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD"...only told in an old American setting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first watched Roots when it came out in 1977 and was overwhelmed. Terrific cast of who's who in Hollywood. Well known actors of today, but were unknown then, for example Levar Burton and John Amos and of course old veterans, such as Lorne Greene, Lloyd Bridges, Burl Ives and so on. I could not get used to Doug McClure playing a baddie. Always remembering him as Trampas in The Virginian. Personally i did not think he pulled it of very well. Regarding the bad guys. My criticism of Roots was the way these characters were portrayed. To me, they looked like characters out of an old Hotspur or Victor comic. Also there was not much told regarding the American war of independence. All in all a very good series for young and old. I also recommend the sequel Roots The Next Generation. Kevin Thomas.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Back in 1977 the miniseries Roots told the story of Kunta Kinte, one of
many young people kidnapped from the west coast of Africa and
transported across the Atlantic to be sold into slavery in the southern
US states. While this was perhaps a brave subject for TV in 1977, such
tales had been sensationalist popular fiction for some time. But Roots
went further: it went on to recount Kunta Kinte's life, and followed
the lives of his descendants up to the point where his modern day
descendant Alex Hailey, author of the book from which the TV series was
developed, went to Africa in search of his ancestral roots, and tracked
down his far-distant family in the village from which Kunta Kinte had
This inspiring story - extremely well told in the TV series within the standards of the time - was then damaged by the revelation that Hailey had blatantly copied large chunks of story material relating to Kunta Kinte's life in Africa from a work by another author: the plagiarism suit was ultimately resolved with an out-of-court settlement, but the damage had been done.
This is an enormous shame because the importance of this series cannot be underestimated. The impact on TV in general was vast, but the impact on the viewing public was even greater - it brought a degree of awareness to a relatively ignorant western world as to exactly what the forebears of the black population had been through (albeit somewhat softened for TV consumption). And notwithstanding the specific untruth of Hailey's plagiarism, the fact remains that the TV series told a wider truth, and in a way which was accessible to a wider public.
The adaptation was excellent, the casting and performances were, for the most part, first rate, and Quincy Jones' theme was memorable.
Taken from http://www.martinlutherking.org/roots.html
January 16, 2002 -- ON Friday, NBC will air a special commemorating the 25th anniversary of the landmark miniseries based on Alex Haley's book "Roots." Ironically, the original series aired on ABC - but officials at that network took a pass on broadcasting the tribute.
What's truly amazing, however, is that "Roots" is receiving a reverential tribute at all. For while the miniseries was a remarkable - and important - piece of television, the book on which it was based has now been widely exposed as a historical hoax.
Unfortunately, the general public is largely unaware of how Haley's monumental family autobiography, stretching back to 18th-century Africa, has been discredited.
Indeed, a 1997 BBC documentary expose of Haley's work has been banned by U.S. television networks - especially PBS, which would normally welcome such a program.
Coincidentally, the "Roots" anniversary comes amid the growing scandal over disclosures of historian Stephen Ambrose's multiple incidents of plagiarism. Because as Haley himself was forced to acknowledge, a large section of his book - including the plot, main character and scores of whole passages - was lifted from "The African," a 1967 novel by white author Hal Courlander.
But plagiarism is the least of the problems in "Roots." And they would likely have remained largely unknown, had journalist Philip Nobile not undertaken a remarkable study of Haley's private papers shortly before they were auctioned off.
The result was featured in a devastating 1993 cover piece in the Village Voice. It confirmed - from Haley's own notes - earlier claims that the alleged history of the book was a near-total invention.
"Virtually every genealogical claim in Haley's story was false," Nobile has written. None of Haley's early writing contains any reference to his mythic ancestor, "the African" named Kunta Kinte. Indeed, Haley's later 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" proves that, as BBC producer James Kent noted, "the villagers (were) threatened by members of Haley's party. These turn out to be senior government officials desperate to ensure that things go smoothly."
Haley, added Kent, "specifically asks for a story that will fit his predetermined American narrative."
Historical experts who checked Haley's genealogical research discovered that, as one put it, "Haley got everything wrong in his pre-Civil War lineage and none of his plantation ancestors existed; 182 pages have no basis in fact."
Given this damning evidence, you'd think Haley's halo would long ago have vanished. But - given this week's TV tribute - he remains a literary icon. Publicly, at least.
The judge who presided over Haley's plagiarism case admitted that "I did not want to destroy him" and so allowed him to settle quietly - even though, he acknowledged, Haley had repeatedly perjured himself in court.
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 "inverse racism" by a bunch of white liberals "embarrassed by our makeup."
Yet the uniqueness of "Roots" is that it was presented as factual history, albeit with fictional embellishments. Haley himself stressed that the details came from his family's oral history and had been corroborated by outside documents.
But Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard, a Haley friend, concedes that it's time to "speak candidly," adding that "most of us feel it's highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village from whence his ancestors came.
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