Based on the 1976 book, “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” by Alex Haley, "Roots" the television series won 9 of the 37 Emmy awards it was nominated for, as well as a Golden Globe and a Peabody. How well do you know the story of "Roots"? Take our quiz and find out!
"Roots" is a story of slavery as told by the author, Alex Haley. He traced the story of his ancestors in Gambia, who were brought to America as slaves.
Named Toby (but not Toby McGuire) by the white slave owners, the main character, Kunta Kinte is played by Lavar Burton in the early years of the story.
Kunta was born to a Mandinka warrior in Gambia, West Africa, but was captured as a young boy while looking for wood to make a drum for his brother. He endured many hardships. He tried to keep the name that was given to him at birth and not adopt his slave name, Toby.
Edward Asner portrayed the captain of the slave ship, Captain Thomas Davies. Asner is probably better known for his role as Lou Grant on the television show of the same name and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Fiddler, played by Louis Gosset Jr., was an older slave that was assigned to teach Kunta Kinte to speak English and perform his duties as a chattel slave, after Kunta was sold to a plantation owner in Virginia
A slave handler named Ames, played by Vic Morrow, forced another slave to whip Kunta Kinte. The whipping continued until he acknowledged his new name, Toby.
John Amos portrayed the older Kunta Kinte in the story. He may be better known as the father, James Evans, on the show “Good Times.”
Kunta was captured, then, in an attempt to prevent further escape attempts, the slave catchers cut off half of his foot. He soon met his future wife, who was the cook for his new owner. She cared for his wounded foot and wounded spirit.
Madge Sinclair is the actress who portrayed Bell. Bell was the cook for the family that owned both her and Kunta. The two later married and had a daughter, who became an important part of their legacy.
Kunta named his and Bell’s daughter Kizzy, a word from his native language which means "stay put." This demonstrated Kunta’s hope that she would never be sold away from her family.
Kizzy wanted to marry another slave, named Noah. However, the plantation overseer wanted to sell Noah, in order to buy a cotton gin.
Sandy Duncan is the actress who portrayed Missy Anne. She became best friends with Kizzy until later in the story, when Missy Anne betrayed Kizzy.
Missy Anne taught Kizzy to read and write, which was strictly forbidden. This could have gotten both of them in trouble, but especially Kizzy, as she was property and it was against the law.
Kizzy forged travel papers for a slave she loved and he tried to escape. Upon his capture, he was beaten until he revealed where he got the travel pass. This caused Kizzy’s owner to sell both her and the slave that tried to escape. Missy Anne was strongly reprimanded for her actions.
When Kizzy was sold to her new master, Tom Moore, he used his master owner privileges and impregnated her. She gave birth to a son that Tom called George.
When she returned to her former home, Kizzy discovered that her mother Bell had been sold away and that her father Kunta Kinte had died. She visited his gravesite for her final farewell to him.
Kizzy used a small stone to scratch out the name Toby and write Kunta Kinte, his noble given name from his African tribe, on her father’s grave marker. This was the first and only time she visited his grave.
George learned about cockfighting from an older disgruntled slave named Mingo. Eventually, George became the chief trainer and became "cock of the walk.”
George met a free black man and learned that he could buy his own freedom. This caused George to have hope that he would someday be a free man as well, who could own property and buy his family back.
The Nat Turner Rebellion was an event where a slave named Nat Turner led an uprising that led to the deaths of over 50 whites and over 100 blacks. 55 of the rebels were tried and executed, including Nat Turner, when he was found after hiding for six weeks.
Kizzy and George started making plans to buy their freedom, because after being threatened by Tom Moore and his wife things became even more unpleasant on the plantation.
Kizzy told George that the white man, Tom, who owned her, was in fact his father. He had never acknowledged his son.
George came to be called Chicken George because of his remarkable skills at training fighting chickens. He was considered the “cock of the walk” due to this skill and his cocky way of strutting around.
Tom Moore made a large bet on a fight with a British fighting chicken owner named Sir Eric Russell. He couldn’t pay, so he sent George to train chickens and other chicken trainers as a partial payment for the debt.
Tom Moore made the promise to George that when he returned from Sir Eric Russell’s that he would give him his freedom. He only reluctantly agreed to keep his word after much persuasion from George.
When George returned from England, he discovered that his mother Kizzy had died mere months before his return, and that his sons had been sold to another master.
After much persuasion, George finally convinced Tom Moore to free him, reluctantly. George soon discovered that he must leave the state or he could lose his newfound freedom.
When George was set free, he learned that if he stayed in North Carolina for 60 days he would lose his freedom. Because of this, he headed North to try to work as a cockfighting trainer and await the end of the Civil War, so that his sons could be freed.
Tom got in a fight with a man that tried to rape his wife and subsequently drowned him in a blacksmith's quench trough. This made him a target of a group of hooded men who began to harass Tom and other members of his family.
Tom, being a blacksmith, devised a horseshoeing method that made recognizable tracks so he could tell who was who among the hooded figures.
The sheriff was friends with the hooded riders' leader, so he tipped them off. They rode again and terrorized Tom, whipping him badly. Nothing was ever done to stop them.
A crooked politician named Senator Arthur Justin, played by Burl Ives, tricked Harvey out of the land and then imposed heavy debt on Harvey’s former slaves, who had stayed on to sharecrop. This basically made them the Senator's slaves.
When George returned, he plotted with the others on how to get them all to his land in Tennessee. Eventually, they all packed up and moved there to start a new life.
When they reached George’s land in Tennessee, he recited the story of Kunta Kinte being taken from Africa and their family history, up to the point of their arrival in Tennessee.
Alex Haley wrote "Roots" because it was the story of his family. He traced his family roots back to Kunta Kinte, the original slave that was kidnapped and brought to America from Africa. Controversy later brewed over plagiarism and some artistic license taken by Haley, but all in all "Roots" sheds light on a dark period in history.