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.
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.
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 (1972) finale in 1983 and "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas (1978)) in 1980. In the US 36.38 million households or 51.1% watched it giving it a Neilsen share of 71%.
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.
It became the first show to receive at least twenty major nominations in the Emmy's (21). Adding its nominations in Creative Arts categories, its total expands to 37. Both records still stand for all shows.
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."
In The Big Bang Theory episode The Big Bang Theory: The Tenure Turbulence (2013), the socially inept main character, Sheldon Cooper, gives Mrs. Janine Davis, an African-American woman working as the Human Resources Administration (HRA) at Caltech, a copy of "Roots" as way of an apology the bad first impression he made on her.