Sadly, the majority of young people today have no knowledge of the TV mini-series “Roots,” and how groundbreaking it was to see a Black family’s journey through the Middle Passage, enslavement and eventual freedom. Roots brought the reality of American chattel slavery into the homes of millions of Americans in a way that would forever destroy the myth of the “contented slave” that so many people believed.
Based on Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, the program garnered 36 Emmy Award nominations and won nine.
The Museum of Broadcast Communications recounts ABC Network execs’ fears that Roots would flop:
“…the show’s consecutive-night format allegedly resulted from network apprehensions. ABC programming chief Fred Silverman hoped that the unusual schedule would cut his network’s imminent losses—and get Roots off the air before sweeps week.”
Despite the network’s fears, each nightly broadcast of the 8-episode series drew 61-71% of all television viewers (!) The final episode of Roots was watched by more than 100 million people. That episode (aired in 1977) was the most watched television program ever, and even after 30+ years, it still stands as the fourth-highest rated U.S. television program in history.
The series is available for purchase at many online locations, and you can watch Roots episodes on your PC at Amazon.com