Roots (1977)

Roots was a ground-breaking television series in the 1970’s (based off of Alex Haley’s 1976 novel titled, Roots: The Saga of the American Family) that brought the Rootsharsh realities of slavery to many living rooms.  The series is based off of Alex Haley’s family line from the very begging of slavery in the colonial era until the slaves were freed in the twentieth century. The television series took a different route to depict slavery through identification with the individual characters based on emotional appeals, family struggles, and even the realization of the American dream and what it meant for African Americans. Roots was also the only series of its kind to create a space for talking about what the term blackness meant and then allowing the conversation of blackness to circulate over its run.  The television series interrupted the typical white middle class subject position that other shows of its kind had asked audience members to take on.  Considering that the television industry focused on a predominately white middle class audience, the industry needed to target particular white middle class ideals such as: family stability, middle-class affluence, individualism, and self-sufficiency.  The importance of focusing on these particular ideals ties back to making sure that the predominately white middle class audience felt comfortable in watching television series such as roots while also pleasing advertisers.  This was done by playing into the separate, but equal notion of blacks and whites.  Roots falls under Herman Gray’s representation of multiculturalism and diversity because of the contradictions and controversial images of what it means to be black, as there was no universal descriptions to describe the characters; each character brought something different.  Roots served as a turning point in popular culture for images of blackness that exist today.


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