35th Anniversary of “Roots”

I didn’t realize it had been 35 years since the unforgettable miniseries “Roots” made its debut, until I saw a special on Oprah’s OWN network interviewing some of the cast. It was this month in 1977 when one family’s history captivated the airwaves night after night. No miniseries, before or afterwards, has had such of a powerful impact upon African-Americans, or upon our nation. It was so compelling, the legendary Ann-Margret had to reschedule her show in Vegas, because everyone was watching “Roots”. As a result, it remains the most watched miniseries in TV history, with the final episode bringing in the biggest ratings.

I was in kindergarten then, and I too watched the first telecast of “Roots” with my Mom and Grandparents. Years later, my Mom shared she somewhat regretted having allowed me to watch it, since I was so young. I immediately rebuffed her comments, thanking her for allowing me the privilege and opportunity to have watched this groundbreaking television event with the rest of the country. To this day, I am honored to have been a part of it. That’s not to say some of the scenes did not bother me, because they did. The image of Kunta Kinte’s foot being chopped off with an axe was beyond disturbing. So was seeing Kizzy sold, and taken away from her parents, never to see them again. Both of these events remain seared in my memory. To this day, when I watch “Roots” I still dread seeing them. However, they were significant parts to the experience of Alex Haley’s ancestors, along with many of our ancestors as well. They needed to be shown.

“Roots” provided African-Americans with an identity, and a history. We had heard about slavery, read books like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, but had never seen it unfold before our eyes through the medium of television. Despite what our ancestors had been through, there was a sense of pride and dignity to see where we had come from as a people, to see what we had endured and survived. Family reunions were on the rise. I would attend my first one four years later. “Roots” won multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, and a Peabody. The sequel, “Roots: The Next Generations”, would air on ABC two years later.

“Roots” is not a program I watch very often, or on a regular basis. I do not want to become familiar with it. However, it was one I have enormous respect for.


~ by kmnnz on January 26, 2012.

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