I have a confession to make: Up until recently, I would not have been able to tell you what Roots is about. Blame it on the fact that the iconic miniseries aired about a decade before I was born — or on my Midwestern public school district, which did not include it as a learning tool in all those years of American history curriculum. (For the record: BIG mistake.)
Roots: The Saga of the American Family premiered on ABC in 1977. Based on the best-selling book by Alex Haley, the six, roughly one-and-a-half hour episodes follow the lives of an African warrior named Kunta Kinte — as he grows up in his village and then is eventually snatched, taken to America, and enslaved — his daughter, Kizzy, and then her son, George, through the end of the Civil War. It's a story of families torn apart, degradation, and dehumanization, as well as a story of resilience, heritage, pride, and great triumph.
Roots is getting a reprisal this week, in a four-night, eight-hour television event that recounts anew the historical portrait of one family's journey through American slavery. Stacked with an impressive cast and determined to veer away from the sentimentality and questionable historical assertions of the original, the revamped miniseries is one of the most highly anticipated TV events of 2016.
So why should you be watching it this week? To fully understand that, let's dive into the reasons that the original was so groundbreaking, and why the series is as relevant now as it has ever been.