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This wide-ranging interdisciplinary collection—the first of its kind—invites us to reconsider the politics and scope of the Roots phenomenon of the 1970s. Alex Haley's 1976 book was a publishing sensation, selling over a million copies in its first year and winning a National Book Award and a special Pulitzer Prize. The 1977 television adaptation was more than a blockbuster miniseries—it was a galvanizing national event, drawing a record-shattering viewership, earning thirty-eight Emmy nominations, and changing overnight the discourse on race, civil rights, and slavery.
These essays—from emerging and established scholars in history, sociology, film, and media studies—interrogate Roots, assessing the ways that the book and its dramatization recast representations of slavery, labor, and the black family; reflected on the promise of freedom and civil rights; and engaged discourses of race, gender, violence, and power in the United States and abroad. Taken together, the essays ask us to reconsider the limitations and possibilities of this work, which, although dogged by controversy, must be understood as one of the most extraordinary media events of the late twentieth century, a cultural touchstone of enduring significance.
Contributors: Norvella P. Carter, Warren Chalklen, Elise Chatelain, Robert K. Chester, Clare Corbould, C. Richard King, David J. Leonard, Delia Mellis, Francesca Morgan, Tyler D. Parry, Martin Stollery, Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang, Bhekuyise Zungu