In 1977, when the history-making miniseries Roots, based on the novel by Alex Haley (which was based on his genealogy research), first aired I was in junior high. And I was glued to my television all eight nights. I remember being awed and moved by the production. I even made a scrapbook of it, containing clippings from TV Guide.
So when I learned that A&E was making a new version of Roots and that it would air four nights in a row starting on Memorial Day, I cleared my calendar. I watched last night and was riveted. The production is lush. The acting is terrific. And the story of this country’s history of slavery told through the eyes of many generations of one family, is so moving and important.
It made me want to know more about the lives (not just the names and dates) of more of my ancestors. And isn’t that what genealogy is about?
I don’t have cable TV; I cut the cord five years ago. Roots is airing on the cable network the History Channel and is also being shown on sister networks Lifetime and A&E. I didn’t want to have to wait for it to be streamed Netflix or Hulu or some other streaming channel where I watch most of my TV. So I signed up for a 7-day free trial of Sling TV. It allows you to watch live presentations of dozens cable TV networks, including History. It also allows for some on-demand viewing. The cost for Sling after the free trial is $20 a month. I’ll be weighing whether I will keep it, but for this week I am so grateful to have access to Roots.
Roots can be uncomfortable to watch at times. There were moments in last night’s broadcast where I had to close my eyes. And even one moment where I had to squeeze my eyes shut while covering my ears and humming. But I think it’s important viewing and I hope that the generations after me who missed out on the 1977 broadcast (or who tried to watch it later and found its production values outdated) will watch.
If you missed it last night, you’re not too late to start. The first episode is being re-aired tonight at 5:45 pm central time, right before the broadcast of the second episode. And it’s also available to watch on the History Channel’s website right now.
Genealogy is about the history of our family’s. Alex Haley’s family’s story (even though it was fictionalized) encompasses part of our country’s history that I’m not proud of. But it’s important to remember and acknowledge it. I encourage you to watch.