Both a best selling book by Alex Haley, and a miniseries first broadcast on ABC in January 1977, "Roots," chronicles the history of Haley's own family across many generations. The story leads from the kidnapping of a young African warrior, Kunta Kinte, to his descendants’ eventual release from slavery after the American Civil War. The story is a combination of fact and fiction, in that the members of Haley's family did exist, and the major events that happened to them in the book did happen in real life, but much of the rest of the book is fictional.

Kunta Kinte is captured one day while looking for wood in Africa, and survives a hellish Atlantic crossing to be sold in America. He receives brutal treatment at the hands of his “Masters” and refuses to consider himself a slave. After time and repeated escape attempts, he is eventually sold to a somewhat kindlier master, settles down and marries, to a lady named Bell. Together they had a daughter named Kizzy, who inherits her father’s rebellious streak.

One night at the age of 16, Kizzy breaks the rules, and is sold the next day to a fighting cock breeder named Tom Lea. Tom rapes Kizzy almost nightly, and she has his son, “Chicken” George, so named because of his skill at cockfighting. George uses his skills to buy his freedom, and also meets and marries another slave, Matilda, with whom he has 8 children. The story then goes on to follow the 4th child, Tom, who fights in the American Civil War for the Union Army, and gains emancipation when they emerge victorious. He and his father must then go on to deal with living as free men in a society filled with racism.

The best-selling book by Alex Haley received the 1976 National Book Award, a 1977 Pulitzer Prize, and the Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Over all it is regarded as a damned fine book.

The miniseries based upon the book made television history. The 12 hours of material was broadcast on 8 consecutive nights in January 1977. It averaged an incredible 45 rating and 66 share, and it still remains as the highest rated miniseries of all time. 100 million people watched the final night of the miniseries setting a single episode ratings record that was not beat until the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H. It swept the Emmys that year, winning 9 awards. 85% of American homes watched one or more part of the miniseries, which ABC had initially thought would be a flop. They had remained skeptical about the viability of marketing a series with black heroes and white villains to the American public at the time. There are some who called Roots the single most spectacular educational experience in race relations in America.

PRODUCER:     Stan Margulies
Adapted for Television by William Blinn 
Kunta Kinte (as a boy): LeVar Burton 
Kunta Kinte (Toby: adult): John Amos 
Binta: Cicely Tyson 
Omoro: Thalmus Rasula 
Nya Boto: Maya Angelou 
Kadi Touray: O.J. Simpson 
The Wrestler: Ji-Tu Cumbuka 
Kintango: Moses Gunn
Brimo Cesay: Hari Rhodes 
Fanta: Ren Woods 
Fanta (later): Beverly Todd 
Capt. Davies: Edward Asner 
Third Mate Slater: Ralph Waite 
Gardner: William Watson 
Fiddler: Louis Gosett, Jr. 
John Reynolds: Lorne Greene 
Mrs. Reynolds: Lynda Day 
George Ames: Vic Morrow 
Carrington: Paul Shenar 
Dr. William Reynolds: Robert Reed 
Bell: Madge Sinclair 
Grill: Gary Collins 
The Drummer: Raymond St. Jacques 
Tom Moore: Chuck Connors 
Missy Anne: Sandy Duncan
Noah: Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs 
Ordell: John Schuck 
Kizzy: Leslie Uggams 
Squire James: Macdonald Carey 
Mathilda: Olivia Cole 
Mingo: Scatman Crothers 
Stephen Bennett: George Hamilton 
Mrs. Moore: Carolyn Jones 
Sir Eric Russell: Ian McShane 
Sister Sara: Lillian Randolph 
Sam Bennett: Richard Roundtree 
Chicken George: Ben Vereen 
Evan Brent: Lloyd Bridges 
Tom: Georg Stanford Brown 
Ol' George Johnson: Brad Davis 
Lewis: Hilly Hicks 
Jemmy Brent: Doug MaClure 
Irene: Lynne Moodu 
Martha: Lane Binkley 
Justin: Burl Ives