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Roots 

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A dramatization of author Alex Haley's family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte's enslavement to his descendants' liberation.
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1  
1977  
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 16 wins & 35 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Series cast summary:
Robert Reed ...  Dr. William Reynolds 4 episodes, 1977
John Amos ...  Older Kunta Kinte / ... 3 episodes, 1977
Louis Gossett Jr. ...  Fiddler 3 episodes, 1977
Lynda Day George ...  Mrs. Reynolds 3 episodes, 1977
Olivia Cole ...  Mathilda / ... 3 episodes, 1977
Madge Sinclair ...  Bell Reynolds 3 episodes, 1977
Ben Vereen ...  'Chicken' George Moore / ... 3 episodes, 1977
Lloyd Bridges ...  Evan Brent 2 episodes, 1977
Georg Stanford Brown ...  Tom Harvey 2 episodes, 1977
Chuck Connors ...  Tom Moore 2 episodes, 1977
Lorne Greene ...  John Reynolds 2 episodes, 1977
Sandy Duncan ...  Missy Anne Reynolds 2 episodes, 1977
Ralph Waite ...  Slater 2 episodes, 1977
Brad Davis ...  Old George 2 episodes, 1977
Edward Asner ...  Capt. Thomas Davies 2 episodes, 1977
Ji-Tu Cumbuka ...  Wrestler 2 episodes, 1977
Hilly Hicks ...  Lewis Harvey 2 episodes, 1977
Vic Morrow ...  Ames 2 episodes, 1977
Lynne Moody ...  Irene Harvey 2 episodes, 1977
Lillian Randolph ...  Sister Sara 2 episodes, 1977
Leslie Uggams ...  Kizzy Reynolds Moore / ... 2 episodes, 1977
Tanya Boyd ...  Genelva 2 episodes, 1977
Richard McKenzie ...  Sam Harvey 2 episodes, 1977
Renn Woods ...  Fanta 2 episodes, 1977
Sally Kemp ...  Lila Harvey 2 episodes, 1977
LeVar Burton ...  Kunta Kinte / ... 2 episodes, 1977
Thayer David ...  Harlan 2 episodes, 1977
Austin Stoker ...  Virgil Harvey 2 episodes, 1977
Lane Binkley ...  Martha Johnson 2 episodes, 1977
Stan Haze ...  Field Singer / ... 2 episodes, 1977
Fred D. Scott Fred D. Scott ...  Luther 2 episodes, 1977
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Storyline

A saga of African-American life, based on Alex Haley's family history. Kunta Kinte is abducted from his African village, sold into slavery, and taken to America. He makes several escape attempts until he is finally caught and maimed. He marries Bell, his plantation's cook, and they have a daughter, Kizzy, who is eventually sold away from them. Kizzy has a son by her new master, and the boy grows up to become Chicken George. He's a legendary cock fighter who leads his family into freedom. Throughout the series, the family observes notable events in U.S. history, such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings, and emancipation. Written by Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Saga of an American Family.


Certificate:

TV-14 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 January 1977 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Roots See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,600,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(total run time)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The miniseries takes place from 1750 to 1870. See more »

Goofs

When the Slave Doctor is examining Kunta Kinte in Annapolis in 1767, he is singing and humming "Pop Goes the Weasel". The music was written around 1799, and the full lyrics were published in America in 1850. See more »

Quotes

Tom Harvey: Listen to me, Jimmy Brent! Listen to me! And take this message with you to Hell! The last hands to touch you in this Earth... was my BLACK hands!
See more »

Alternate Versions

Several scenes were cut for DVD when the eight episodes were combined into six. Among the deletions: A five minute opening sequence of George Hamilton riding through the countryside on a carriage before he reaches the Moore plantation and several scenes featuring slaves working in the fields as Chicken George returns home from England. The dvd also deletes the opening screen credits for these sequences. The DVD does contain a short sequence at the start of Episode 5, featuring Chicken George and Tom Moore before a cockfight, not seen originally. The DVD also features different closing credits than the original broadcast. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Crank: High Voltage (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Oluwa
by Quincy Jones
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User Reviews

 
The Best TV Miniseries Ever Offered by a Major Commercial Network Before Cable
16 July 2007 | by classicalsteveSee all my reviews

Two of the most important American television programs are "The Civil War" by Ken Burns (1989), and the epic narrative miniseries "Roots" (1977) based on the book "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" by Alex Haley. Despite the controversy surrounding the book, and the facts of Haley's ancestry (for example, the slave Toby aka "Kunte Kinte", may never have fathered Kizzy and therefore may not be a direct ancestor of Haley) the series is an important and ground-breaking work in its stunning portrayal of slave life in America from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century.

For decades, the United States has been largely in denial of its treatment of African-Americans both as slaves and later in post-Civil War periods. The south of the 19th century had fabricated the reality of slave conditions and down-played the brutality inflicted on both slaves and anti-slave sympathizers. Racial hatred and brutality continued into the 20th century, largely fueled by white traditions that have (and continue to) concoct misrepresentations of historical reality to younger generations. By the middle of the 20th century, nearly 100 years after the end of the American Civil War, President Johnson signed Civil Rights legislation into law with the White Southern community kicking and screaming all the way. If legislation couldn't change people's hearts and minds, what could?

Americans love movies, story-telling/narrative film depictions of reality. There had never before been a nationally distributed film production that honestly told the story of the African-American slave experience. Fourteen years after Johnson's legislation, "Roots" was broadcast on national television by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). I regard those network executives that green-lighted the broadcast in great esteem for their willingness to take a chance on this most-important series. I doubt whether US commercial television will ever produce and broadcast such a high-caliber and controversial program again in the near future. And to give credit to the American viewing public, "Roots" was a huge success.

From beginning to end, "Roots" is an absolute triumph of film production, the best-ever miniseries offered by a corporate network prior to the rise of cable television. The acting and the script are top-notch. Almost every notable African-American acting talent of the time was solicited to join the cast, from LeVar Burton and John Amos (Kunte Kinte, Toby) to Lou Gosset Jr (Fiddler) to Ben Vareen (Chicken George) to James Earl Jones (Alex Haley). Even OJ Simpson makes an appearance. A lot of notable white talent appears as well, such as Ed Asner and Sandy Duncan.

Slavery is a tragedy and "Roots" is a tragic story. "Roots" has its light moments, its inspiring moments, although it is its heartbreaking moments that stay with you: The moment the young African Kunte Kinte is shackled, sold as chattel and forced to board the slave ship bound for America. The whipping of the young Kunte Kinte to "break" him into slavery. The selling of Kizzy, Toby's daughter, to another slave master because of her involvement with a scheme to help a runaway. These are the moments that make Roots' larger point. Another aspect that makes Roots effective in its rhetoric is that it never seeps into sentimentality to makes its point. The story relies on an honest narrative and the audience is left to draw their on conclusions. Is it brutal? Yes. Unjust? Definitely. And that is what it was. (If you don't believe "Roots", sell yourself into slavery and see how you like it.)

Two aspects occur to me about what this story means beyond just the plain inhumanity of the institution of slavery. One aspect is that the benefit of slavery is terribly minute when compared to the staggering price paid by the slaves themselves and everyone else. Simultaneously, non-slaves were pressed into service to maintain slavery as an institution. Such titanic sadness, misery, hopelessness brutality, and inhumanity is forced upon people (both slave and non-slave) in return for a more comfortable life for a minuscule segment of the population. And yet the amount of work, effort, and money to maintain the inhumane infrastructure seems more burdensome than if these people were free. The average white southerner could not afford to own slaves, and many worked for slave owners as overseers, slave-catchers, auctioneers, and other positions designed to maintain the institution. In short, misery for thousands with a little comfort for a few.

The other tragedy is the denial of positive contribution to society. Those who were slaves were denied giving their love, their knowledge, their inspiration, and their culture to society. All this beauty sacrificed so a few white aristocrats can laze around on sofas in front of fireplaces in giant mansions. Someone once said that if we don't help foster the gifts in other people, we run the risk of never seeing how our world could be made better. Slavery is a tragedy for the people enacting it as well, although the suffering aspect is less apparent.

"Roots" is a story that needs to be told and retold. Shown and re-shown. I would encourage any teacher trying to convey the reality of slavery in America to consider showing at least a segment or two of "Roots". There is no question that the film is mesmerizing. It saddens me that there are still those in America that want to hang onto southern myths that propagate that slavery wasn't that bad. These are some of the same people that are convinced the holocaust is a fabrication. It is better to forgive than the forget. We have to embrace our roots.


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