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FAQ for
"Roots" (2016) More at IMDbPro »

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After Tom Lea loses a cockfight, he trades Chicken George to his English opponent in exchange for forgiveness of his debts. George's new English master takes him back to England to train cockfighting chickens for him. Several viewers have wondered how George could be a slave in England since slavery was illegal there.

It's true that slavery was illegal in Britain at the time. The 1772 Somerset decision, while not technically abolishing slavery in Britain, had removed a master's power to coerce labor from their slave. In 1833, the British Parliament abolished slavery throughout the Empire. However, while George may not have technically been a slave, that doesn't mean that his British master couldn't coerce labor from him. George was stranded thousands of miles from home in a foreign land. He wanted to return to be with his family. While George could theoretically run away from his new master, this would still leave him stranded in Britain and require that he find new work. His existing master valued George highly as a skilled trainer of fighting cocks. There's no guarantee that a new employer would feel the same. His master had also promised to eventually send George back to America and to provide him with his freedom. A new employer might not agree to the former and couldn't do the latter. So George would have had compelling reasons to stay with his existing master.


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