Roots: The Saga of an American Family“I’m sorry… what?”

I’m in an editorial meeting at ESSENCE. In my recollection, the room falls silent, and all the editors train their eyes on me. We’d been discussing how we should cover the 30th anniversary of Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a momentous TV event. Each editor had thrown out an idea, except me. My Editor-in-Chief put me on the spot, and I told the truth: I never saw Roots.

I knew the highlights, or I thought I did. Based on Alex Haley’s bestselling book about his ancestry, it’s the tale of an African man sold into slavery and the many horrors that come to him and generations to come.

“Nope, I confirm to my EIC. “I’ve never seen it.”

I had a somewhat valid excuse, I thought: Roots originally aired before I was born. But then there were editors in the room with children younger than me, and they’d sat there brood down for an American history moment.   I am sufficiently shamed.

“Demetria,” a senior editor says sternly, “you must watch Roots.”

Five years later, I’ve finally fulfilled that duty. The Christmas release of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, a movie about slavery is here and it coincides — no coincidence, I’m sure — with the 35th anniversary of Roots. Over the weekend, BET began airing the entire Roots franchise. I had nothing better to do, so I bunkered down with delivered Thai food and watched.

Um … yeah. I couldn’t turn away from the start, not with Cicely Tyson screaming in agony as she birthed a baby, not thru the coming-of-age story of that baby, a boy, Kunta Kinte, turning into a man in 18th century Gambia. Riveting is an understatement.

But from the moment Kunta Kinte is captured by the white man, the “WTF?” moments never stopped coming. I now totally understand why my mother wouldn’t, or maybe couldn’t, watch it again.

After that ESSENCE meeting, I’d rushed back to my desk to call my mother at work. I had to know why she (and my father) had set me loose into the world without showing me Roots, a seeming African-American rite of passage.

She sighed heavy. “I probably should have, but …” she began. “I just couldn’t.”

Mum explains that, for me to watch as a child, she would have had to as well in order to explain it. And she just couldn’t do that to herself. Or me.

“It’s a hard movie. Like …” She pauses to search for the right words. “I watched it. It was hard to get up and go to work the next morning and deal with … people. But you should probably watch it anyway.”

Her calling it “hard” was an understatement. I’ll spare you the long list of scenes that made me pause the movie and sigh heavy just like my mother had at recalling it. Instead, I’ll give you the top three thoughts that ran through my head:

1. This. Is. F%^#ed. Up.

2. Ohhhh, so that’s where “that” came from.  *light bulb goes off*

3. The entire African-American race has got to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (… which turns out not to be a far-fetched thought. I looked it up and I’m late on that. All the people who arrived at that conclusion earlier probably saw Roots.)

As horrifying as Roots is, it’s still slavery-lite. But let’s go with Roots’ depiction. A human is captured by weird-looking people who separate the person from their family and tribe. Forever. This person is caged like an animal, then taken on a months-long journey across the Atlantic, in which the person is chained below deck for most of it. People are dying, and vomiting and pissing and defecating and they are living, literally, in it, for who knows how long. The person is poked and prodded like an animal on the auction block, then sold off to the highest bidder, separated from anyone they might have known from home or connected with on the God forsaken journey over.

Any one of these experiences alone would screw up the average person. But we’re still not done.

This person lands on a plantation, and is introduced to a “home”  of horrors where the threat of violence looms and folk that look like them have adopted the White Man’s version of what Africans are, and are in equal measure friends and enemies. As a means of survival, the Black people the person encounters have adapted to a f@#$ed up reality where submission, fear, silence, and you know, delivering your daughter to be raped by the overseer are par for the course.

This goes on for generations. People who have lived under tyranny, have adapted to bizarre modes, and been taught off-klter perceptions of the world and themselves. Overseers have been paid good money to break them so they “know their place.” Stories about Africa, a far off place where Black folk strut free are a distant memory or sound like a fantasy and ain’t nobody got time for that. Live. Die. Get your reward in the After Life. You cling to that either because you really believe it or it’s the only thing that keeps you from going crazier. Maybe both.

Freedom doesn’t suddenly make everything “Kumbaya.” All the trauma and screwy ways you’ve been taught to see and adapt to the world like putting white folks on pedestals (and walls in Black churches), fearing white folk, seeing yourself and people who look like you as less than, eating the sh!t white folk won’t touch, and placing a premium on light-skinned Negroes or Negroes of any color with white folks’ features, remain along with a whole lot of anger, depression, and bitterness.

In 19th Century America there’s no time (or money) for the masses of Black folk to work out all that with a therapist or have long conversations about feelings and collective Black self-esteem. Emotionally shot and physically damaged folk need to focus on survival for themselves and their brood. A hefty chunk of Black folk’s core dysfunctions that the world blames them for having don’t get treated. So their kids watch and do as they do, not as they say. Someone beat them, and they beat their kids, and then they beat their kids and the cycle doesn’t get broken because everyone it happened to says, “Hey, I turned out okay.” And there’s no end in sight for any of this to stop when 165 years after the abolition of slavery, in general, Black folks fear therapy more than they fear God.

A few weeks ago, I went home to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving and stayed for a week, perhaps the longest I’ve been home consecutively since I moved to New York at 23. I’m sitting at the kitchen table where the wi-fi signal is strongest watching Season 2 of The Walking Dead. My father wanders into the kitchen to forage for leftovers and engages me in conversation.

“What are you watching?” he asks.

“The Walking Dead.”

He opens the fridge.

He’s still tinkering around nearby by the time the show ends and I ask him out of genuine concern,  “Hey, do we have guns in the house?”

There’s a shotgun “probably from the late 1800s, I would guess,”  he says. “Doesn’t work. Why?”

“Just wanted to know if we were covered in case there’s ever a zombie apocalypse,” I say.

He decides to entertain me. “The shotgun was my father’s, father’s. He was born in 1862. You want to see it?”

Wayament. What?

“My great-grandfather was a slave?!” I shout.  I’m just now finding this out that just three-generations ago, my blood, literally mine as Type passes down on the Daddy’s side, was owned.  People talk about slavery like it was so long ago, but when people still living can talk about people they met that were enslaved, it ain’t that far back.

“He’s where we get our eyes from, I think,” my Dad says. “My Dad had them, his dad had them. We have them.”

That’s DNA passed down since slavery for sure, and I wonder how much else.

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

  • http://urbanexpressive.wordpress.com urbanexpressive

    I too was born a few years after Roots was aired, but I did watch it as a child: at home and in school. Here is is, well over 20 years later and I haven’t seen it since. Not for any other reason other than I just haven’t- and I’m not an avid tv watcher. No,traumatic. But Roots isn’t/wasn’t my (and shouldn’t be anyone’s) only platform to have learned the atrocities of slavery. I don’t think its a big deal you hadn’t watched the movie until later in life, but based on your tone it implies you never learned or were made aware of the full depths of the enslavement of Africans, or the possibility that yes only a few generations ago you would have ties to it.

    The people who tend to think or say that slavery was “so long ago” usually are not well educated on this part of American history or choose to ignore it. Anyone who doesn’t see that many of the problems faced by people of color, including upward mobility do themselves a disservice. Unfortunately school curriculum doesn’t delve deeply into our history, so I can see why many feel “Roots” should be watched to learn about it. But again, its a movie; some parys of it has been debunked (not the atrocities but Haley’s accounts of his own family) and is served as entertainment. When you want (and should) know more about your history, read non-fiction books, go to museums and speak to scholars on the matter.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    Roots is one of those movies that should be a requirement for AA to see. Its disappointing to see people walking around ignorant of their history but its a whole other thing to have that knowledge accessible to you and it is not taught or sought after. That’s how a people stayed screwed up.

  • The Other Jess

    Revoked! LOL, but i gotta say, parts of this article are genius – thanks!

  • Pseudonym

    You can learn a lot about black American history without watching “Roots.” I wouldn’t consider not seeing that movie a black card revokable [eye roll] offense. I do agree, however, that it is important for black Americans to know their history. It’ll help you see through a lot of the b.s. anti-black propaganda perpetuated by U.S. society.

  • http://www.lifestylebyky.com Ky

    I watched Roots for the first time this weekend as well…so Thank You BET it’s been a long time since you have done something this monumental for a generation.
    Nevertheless I was captivated by Roots. I am so obsessed over AA history and culture. I see so much similarities in modern society to the times of slavery and as a black woman I am not proud of that. A huge reason Blacks are so ignorant is because we don’t take the time to learn our history, we don’t visit the Schomburg museum in Harlem, we don’t pick up a historical book to see and understand the hardship that our ancestors went through. Some of us just take advantage of many of the opportunities that we are allotted including something as simple as knowing how to read or better yet receiving an education.Watching Roots at 23 years old is not something that I am ashamed of because there are plenty of resources that I have utilized to learn and understand my history. However unlike many others I will not shy away from watching this movie again and again because I enjoyed it, yes some parts are imprinted in my head and not in a good way esp. the rape but we need our history to stay prevalent.

  • EST. 1986

    I haven’t seen that movie in years.

  • Señorita

    When they first aired Roots on TV, I was in elementary school and recalled coming home after school every day to watch it and I’m hella glad I did, when I did. Plus i was fortunate to attend black schools (elem-college) that further discussed this part of our history. It is unfortunate that some of the the generations after me hadn’t been exposed (through conversations, studies, etc.) to these painful times in our history. Sometimes I wonder if parents exposed and talked to their children about our history and how our ancestors overcame obstacles, would that make an impact on how things are today. OAN: I’m glad the author was able to finally watch Roots…better late than never!

  • Nadell

    You are not alone. This is my 1st time watching “Roots” and I am 26.
    Initially I was ashamed to acknowledge that I had never watched the mini-series. As you know being black this movie is mandatory. The disgusted & puzzled looks I’d receive from folks who felt it blasphemy that I, a black woman – an African American, had not seen the film made me feel ashamed. Of course that was years ago. I remember recently discussing this with a white guy – he had asked if I had seen the movie and why did I tell him no?!?! He then informed me that he’d seen the movie and he’s white. He thought he had just received an access pass in the ‘black community’ because he had done something before a black person. I proceeded to ask him if he had seen ‘Steel Magnolias’ he said no – I told him I had seen the movie and I’m black. At that point he realized how asinine of a remark that was.

    I do understand the significance of ‘Roots’ and how poignant a film it is but I never understood why it is so required to be watched? And if you don’t, especially as a black person, then you are somehow a discredit…

    And like others I have self-educated & self-informed myself through research to discover much history of my ancestors that was excluded in school books. “Roots” has added much more to my knowledge and love of our history. Alex Haley’s passion for finding his roots is inspiring!
    Thanks BET!

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    *Notes the ties Clutch has with Essence*

    Sigh.

  • mary burrel

    Better late than never.

  • http://britnidanielle.com/ Britni Danielle

    The ties? You mean writers? Writers gotta eat, so many of us freelance for SEVERAL mags to make the dream work. :)

    But just to be clear: CLUTCH is one of the few independently owned (i.e. no corporate ownership) major online mags for/by black women.

  • http://gravatar.com/mbm1ame marian

    I am a Gambian immigrant living in England, I watched roots when I was in my early teens, if I recall it was shown on national tv in my country making me keenly aware of wanting to know more about the history of slavery. I don’t think you need to watch it to understand black history, you can read the history books and do the research, but personally from an African’s perspective watching it triggered an interest helped me see and understand slavery in a way no other history book could and ensured that I read every history book I could about AA history and British history.

  • Alisha

    They aren’t “ties,” per se. Demetria no longer works at Essence.

  • Dave

    “Slavery-lite” was exactly the feeling I had when I watched Roots (also a recent first timer). To be frank, it has aged and is in need of a contemporary update. The funny thing is, if my parents reacted that heavily to the original I don’t think most anyone in this country could tolerate a more accurate, less network television-friendly depiction of slavery.

  • Pseudonym

    I respect the hustle!

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Yeah, I know that Clutch is not corporate owned, Britni. And that’s a good thing. My concern is that there seems to be a pool of writers that make the rounds writing for most or a lot of the publications, both online and in print, that are aimed at Black women. And that sometimes leads to a sort of ‘group-think’. And not necessarily on purpose even. But it can still be problematic, to me anyway.

    Thanks.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Okay. Thanks, Alisha.

  • http://britnidanielle.com/ Britni Danielle

    I hear you, Val. But like any other profession, writing is about who you know. It’s not just black pubs, though, everyone does it. It’s hard to get on an editor’s radar, so once they have a group of reliable writers, those are the folks who get assignments or get their pitches actually read.

    How to change/expand the pool? Writers who want to be in “mainstream” pubs should pitch their ideas, or network with those who are already there. Now, if they’d rather create/cultivate their own thing, that’s great too, but just know the pool is small because people rely on who they already know. Hell, I’m still on the fringes and even that was difficult to be apart of.

    Thanks for being a Clutch supporter, though. I skim the comments on a lot of posts and yours are always pretty thoughtful.

  • Kae

    Your not the only! I’ve never seen it either and am not ready to! I’ll sit down one day and watch it!

  • GlowBelle

    Actually I was glad BET was showing Roots because people do need to see the movie and not act like slavery didn’t happen. Yes, slavery is ugly, but it is a part of our history, and we need to know that. Though I would have rather had BET show it earlier this year (I’m sorry, it is the holidays and I need my comedies and slushy rom-coms), it’s probably the smartest thing BET has done all year. I actually saw Roots while in school, back in middle school and it captivated me and got me interested further in Black history. I just wish that more people would see it. It has aged in its look, but the story remains the same and is as powerful as ever.

    “Roots” also provoked me to learn about my families history, and I still think that Black people need to start researching their families and finding their own “roots”. True, it is difficult to do considering how records were destroyed and lost, but it can still be done with all the ancestry websites they have and some of them are free too and use mainly accessible census records. I know my mom and I found our ancestors all the way to the 18th century, and it was pretty fascinating stuff. Also take advantage of your elders, because a lot of the stuff I learned about my ancestors came straight from my grandmother.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Yep, I get that. I know it happens at mainstream publications as well. But, since we have many fewer outlets it’s much more noticeable. I appreciate your insight into it though, thanks.

    Oh and thanks. I try. Lol..

  • http://memoirsofthechic.com Jaida

    I’ve never seen the movie mainly because I don’t think I’ve ever had to and after reading this article, it’s everything I’ve assumed it would be. It would just be hard for me to watch. Of course, we’ve never been faced with those circumstances, but to know then see my ancestors (even though it’s just a movie) get beat and treated like animals in the zoo is unsettling. I just can’t. I think I would be more angry towards the “others” than anything if I watched it. I’ll watch it one of these days….I just couldn’t do it during BET’s 3-day marathon.

  • heide

    My sentiments exactly. I’ve suspected for a while but was hoping it wasn’t the case. Syketh because it is. Well it does answer a lot of questions I had about the site. Oh well you can’t win them all.

  • Sereen

    I could not watch Roots, I tried numerous times but it just pissed me off lol. The farthest I went was half way into the first volume i think…

  • http://gravatar.com/mbm1ame marian

    As a Gambian, west African immigrant in Britain I watched roots at a very early and it made a huge impression on me. I can remember watching it on national tv (in Gambia). I don’t think that you need to have your black card revoked for not watching it ( but then I don’t understand the theory behind that). personally from a West Africans perspective it triggered an interest in the history of slavery in my country; in the African American history, ( as well as blacks around the world) because it allowed me to see and understand a perspective in history in a way that no history book would have done.
    I’m not sure if my interest in black history would have held the same had I not watched roots.

  • Tiffy

    The hardest thing about watching Roots is knowing the damage done by this country and the europeans has ultimately fractured the whole black dispora, the people descended the most closely from orginal man, people descended from kings and queens, the people who built great kingdoms, created language, math, science, performed the first surgeries,etc forever. we can continue to try to mend ourselves but as much as we try I’m pretty sure our race will never be restored to our former glory and there are many parts of our great history we will never know and can never get back and thats as painful as every whiplash and rape thats seen in that story….but still we should never stop trying repair our damage

  • JOJO

    how old is the writer??
    it may explain why she never saw roots- i saw it several times- first time around 15 years old- i havent watched it in a while- i have to be in a good mood to watch it

  • The Artist

    I shied away from Roots for much of my life, only watching bits and pieces. Now that I’m older I certainly appreciate the authenticity. This collection is really well-done and gives you a much clearer picture of what really happened. There’s nothing romantic about slavery. It is what is it. I no longer get angry, but instead I use this as a reminder to do better, because our ancestors weren’t afforded the same opportunities.

  • apple

    i saw parts of roots as a kid.. because stuff like that hadn’t effected me mentality like it does now.. now i refused to sit down to watch it esp during xmas because i really dont’ want to be reminded about what i already know in darker sadder hopeless ways

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    never seen it. never wanted to see it. never will want to see it.

  • Señorita

    I’m just curious….how can you give the history of slavery a “contemporary update”?

  • kaybee

    Nice read..but I do just have to say spanking your child and getting whipped during slavery is sooooo not the same thing & blk ppl arent the only ones tht spank their kids so thts a bit annoying.

  • Marcus

    As a black man let me say that you should not feel ashamed for now watching roots. It’s a movie that’s hard for anyone to watch let alone black folks. So your black pass isn’t revoked. However I what tripped me out from this article was this: YOU’RE NOW ON SEASON TWO OF “THE WALKING DEAD”? I could forgive you on “Roots” but are you in touched with anything happening in the world now? In case you haven’t heard we now have a black president, Whitney Houuston has passed, and black women can now do gymnastics. The world is now an exciting place. You should check it out.

  • http://myfemalepersuasion.wordpress.com myfemalepersuasion

    I was wondering what your reasoning was for FINALLY watching it, or not having watched it already as a full grown adult. Tweets were overbearing but i’m glad you had the experience. I’m not motivated to see Django Unchained, but i’m hearing good things about it. I realize my bias. Tired of seeing the same black actors over and over again, and i never believe the hype about movies/ TV shows. Haven’t see Scandal either.

  • Dave

    Your’re not giving the histoty of slavery an update, your giving its depiction an update. Sort of like how Saving Private Ryan put all previous war films to shame.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    This! I am getting flashbacks from my childhood I remember watching Roots, North and South, Shaka Zulu, etc. with my parents. Personally I took Roots for what it was someone telling their story…a much needed story that needed to be told then and now. That’s why I loved the show…”who do you think you are?” especially when it had black guests on it. Being born and raised in the south my parents made me well aware of my history from both sides from the good, bad and down roght ugly and trust me when you learn the truth or be aware of YOUR history/legacy it isn’t an easy feeling/journey but it is one we all need to take. Again why do you think TPTB in this country try so hard to deny, cliff note our contribution and history so much within this country…it’s another form of oppression. Roots may not be everybody ideal or too lite for some but it serves as a passage for more knowledge and dialogue especially for younger kids. As the old saying goes…You don’t know where you are going until you know where you been….

  • MISS_EMCEE

    Roots is like a Disney movie compared to the almost real portrayal of Uncle Tom Cabin. The move Uncle Tom Cabin was banned in the USA. I advise if you to watch the movie on the weekend and make sure you don’t have to be around white people because you will be highly mad and hostile.

  • Lee Lee

    Hmm. Why does watching the Walking Dead mean she doesn’t know what’s going on in the world. You can be aware of more than one thing at a time…or at least most people can.

  • http://gravatar.com/heavenleiblu heavenleiblu

    No disrespect, Val, but this isn’t a new thing at all. It’s just probably more noticeable now that most of us are absorbing print media via the web + the relatively faster turnaround (thus more articles that writers have to pen).

  • http://gravatar.com/heavenleiblu heavenleiblu

    Dang, I didn’t read your follow up reply, Val. My bad!

  • MISS_EMCEE

    My bad@ the grammatical mistakes. I was mobile phoning the comment. The movie Uncle Tom Cabin was banned in the USA. I advise if you do watch the movie, watch it on the weekend. Make sure you don’t have to be around white people because you will be highly mad and hostile.

  • KayKay

    Black people spank their kids for things that could be resolved with a time out or just talking it out with their kid but it seems like a lot of Black people get easily frustrated with kids and reach for the belt when it’s not even needed. Also, it seems like many Black people think it’s funny to re-tell stories of them being spanked with anything from a shoe to a lamp. Black people have a “it happened to me and I turned out fine” attitude towards spanking that just continues the cycle of frustrating and humiliating their kids instead of considering other parenting options.

  • Mercy do better!

    If you think Roots is something you NEED to watch SANKOFA.
    I don’t know why Black folks can’t bear to watch these images when your great grandparents had to LIVE through it. It is a disgrace that a race cannot face the woes of its people, move forward, and defend its children.

  • sojourner4truth

    I watched Roots when it first aired. I was in 3rd grade and all of my friends, mostly Black and Latino, watched it as well. Every day we came to the lunch room and we discussed it at length. We were amazed and curious. And of course, we developed a mantra “There’s no way, I would have been slave.” SMH. Literally every family in my apartment building watched Roots. It was close to home because the majority of my neighbors had Southern roots. The journey was palpable. The community talked about it for weeks. And in doing so, families shared there personal memories and histories. Today, I am the co-director of a rites of passage program for teen girls in Brooklyn and each season that a new group of initiates watches Roots they are amazed, curious and I cannot pull them away from the screen.

    To this day, watching Roots was/is one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I am reminded of the brilliance and power from whence I came. It reminds that all things are possible because I am the descendant of people who resisted, survived, and lived through and, in some instances, were overtaken by one of the worst crimes against humanity. It reminds my that I am part of a legacy of people for whom family is as equally important as liberation. It reminds me to be intentional and purposeful about the moves I make because of what my ancestors endured. And it reminds me of the power of storytelling. I can’t believe that it aired 35 years ago… what a triumph

  • sojourner4truth

    SANKOFA is the best! A must-see by everyone

  • sojourner4truth

    You bring back good memories… I was also educated in Black and Latino elementary school that was conscious and community rooted so Roots was all we talked about at school, in the lunchroom and at home for weeks. We have disconnect from the shame and look at our history from a place of empowerment. We have to tell our own stories to our children from birth. The mainstream society is constantly communicating our “deficiencies” They only thing that can dismantle the lies is telling our truth.

  • Devon .Sayers

    James you should try and watch it you wont regret or forget

  • Cyn

    I’m Carribean descent, more precisely, Haitian descent and have watched Roots back in 2009 when I was 25. My mom had read the book back in the 80s and had followed the tv series with my dad.

    The most interesting aspect for me was the acculturation Africans brought to the New World have been through in order to function like animals (deprived of their language, religious and spiritual beliefs, cooking habits, etc.)

    Fortunately, in case of Haiti, slavery ended in the late 18th century and were able to overcome some of the atrocities. I say some, since a lot of the Haitian people are prisonner of mental slavery (like most Blacks in North and South America).

    Don’t feel too bad about having catching up with Roots recently; everything happens on its own time.

  • Lanee

    People spanking their kids for dumb ish isn’t exclusive to black people. Don’t believe the hype. ijs

  • Lanee

    Marcus lmao. Lee Lee, you, and the people who thumbs downed his comment, clearly did not get the joke…smh The Walking Dead is in season 3 now btw… So. There you go.

  • Lanee

    Marcus lmao. Lee Lee, you, and the people who thumbs downed Marcus’ comment, clearly did not get the joke…smh The Walking Dead is in season 3 now btw so there you go.

  • Lanee

    lmao @ Marcus. Yea she’s late.

  • bk chick

    randon but is your company hiring? lol..I’m really interested in that kind of work..what’s the name of your company?

  • http://addassamari.edublogs.org/ Gail

    The “Roots”mini-series with its impressive cast aired 36 years ago. I never say the movie partly because it aired before I came to the US and mainly because I had read the book. As a Jamaican teenager and a history buff I had a good grasp of slavery and not just as written in the history books. My own aunt told of our ancestors in Jamaica and their parts in the uprisings on our tiny island. It fueled my pride in my ancestors and the things they overcame so that I could be born free to play and choose my own path in life. “Roots” was essentially the story of all our ancestors who where reluctant immigrants to these distant shores.

    Perhaps “Roots” should be mandatory reading as a rite of passage for every teenager because it changed how I viewed my place in the world. By no means am I making history, but it serves as an impetuous, a reminder that I am owed nothing but owe every thing to the next generation. That is why I teach.

  • Kevin

    Great article. If you feel thoroughly shamed I guess the shame I feel is multiplied!! I’ve never seen it and I’m 50! I remember how big a deal it was back then. I guess, I need to step up and make a purchase. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jewellthief Farringtonsmyname Jewellthief

    great article….maybe me laugh….

    I remember seein it at 13 when it aired the first time and then seein it again a few years later in high school—in my black history class, taught by my white teacher….he was no Tim Wise, but he was close….LOL

    looking forward to your follow-up on your family history—-the convo you had w/ your dad about the family gun (I’m a fan of TWD as well) sounds like a good starting point….

  • http://twitter.com/shuttabug Drea* M (@shuttabug)

    I too only fully watched Roots over the holidays and so much made sense, about my family, my black southern roots, the conditioning of manners and treatment between whites and blacks and the size of the black family. I have always been aware of my family history and dates but to have those visuals accompany the dates brought both a sense of pride and sadness. So many people, of all races, talk of slavery like it happened hundreds of years ago but that is not the case. I encourage all African Americans to research their lineage. It may only go as far as the 1870-1880s on census records when we, black folk, were first listed as people instead of property but it will change your perspective on life.

  • Blue

    I’ve never seen the whole thing either. Just bits & pieces. But I did see Queen. Sorry I was not about to spend my entire holiday vacation watching a movie about the slavery times. It’s bad enough I don’t find the holidays enjoyable for me anymore. I’ll watch it some other time.
    Oh & I can watch a movie about slavery & not be upset at white people after I see it. It’s what their ancestors did to mine. Why should I take my anger out on people who technically had nothing to do with what happened in the past.

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  • Sue

    I don’t think it’s a big deal if one hasn’t watched “Roots”, there are other avenues to learn about black history. But like you, I do think it’s a big deal for one to not have been made aware of their history.
    I also want to point out that it’s not just U.S. schools that don’t delve deeply into black history, it also happens in Africa. I grew up learning how this explorer “discovered” this river or that mountain. This gives the impression that the land was empty, unoccupied when the colonizers came! I am only now realizing as an adult how the history has been misrepresented or distorted. Slavery was horrible, but colonialism was just as horrific but usually it’s glossed over and we are taught that the colonisers wanted to “civilize the natives” or simply to preach the Gospel. In school, they did not mention the abuses our grandparents suffered: some were raped, beaten, killed, castrated and tortured. The reasons for some of the problems people in Africa and the African diaspora face are becoming clearer. I rarely read non-fiction, but this year I have resolved to make an effort to read about these subjects. This is information that every black person should learn regardless of where they live. So, I would also add that whatever you learn, share it with your family and friends.

  • ariella

    I was 4 when this was on and it scared the crap out of me. To this day just the title makes me shiver.

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  • RW Beavers

    Hi, had to reply here… Be angry but sin not. The anger is good to make changes that are needed. Mainly in the thinking of many African Americans who are clueless to why they subconsuiosly think white is right. What do I mean? The stereotyping hasn”t ended with slavery, nor the programing of the slave mentality. It has been perpetuated and perpetuated since. How? By what I call the Tarzan syndrome. A single white man in an African jungle who rules and defeats every tribe there, and rules the animals too, who time and again put the tribesmen in their places with the help of every wild animal with his jungle call… this senario is perpetuated in movie after movie, where we see a white figure placed in any ethnic community where in the end, lo and behold he comes out on top. He’s protrayed as the best warrior in the accepting Indian tribe, the best kungfu fighter in China’s tournaments with minimal training, the best rapper in the hood and gets the girl; the best avatar in the alien culture. You name it, he’s conquered it via the silver screen.Lol… Believe me, the slave owners idealism didn’t die with them. They passed it on. Howbeit! Lately things have been getting somewhat better. Thanks to pioneering African Americans with God’s help…

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