Anika Noni Rose and Laurence Fishburne are two of the stars of the remake of ‘Roots’ currently airing on the History Channel. (Courtesy photo)
Based on the 1976 novel by Alex Haley, “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” is an update of the famous story of Haley’s efforts to trace his ancestors.
The History Channel, which is airing the mini-series, couldn’t have picked a better time to unveil the historical journey of many African descendants. The story begins in 1750 in the town of Juffure, located in West Africa.
Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby) is born into a family that teaches him to cherish his name. Omorah Kinte (Babs Olusanmokun), Kunta’s father, and his mother, are his shield.
Omorah and Kinte’s Uncle, Silla Ba Dibba (Derek Luke) train him to conquer the challenges he may soon face by their arch-enemy, the Koro. Kunta is filled not only with strength and courage, but dreams of attending Timbuktu University. His father disapproves, and even wants to arrange a marriage for his young boy, but Kunta runs off and falls into a battle with the Koro. After being captured, he is sent off to the British slave traders in 1767 with other slaves.
After landing in Annapolis, Maryland, Kunta is soon bought by John Waller (James Purefoy), an English slave owner and brought to his tobacco farm in Virginia. He soon meets Fiddler (Forest Whittaker) who serves as his mentor.
Waller gives Kunta his slave name of Toby, but Kunta is too full of pride to go by the name a slave owner chooses to call him. After running away for the second time he gets beaten by a switch until he understands that his slave name is Toby. Fiddler reassures him that his new name shouldn’t define who he is as long as deep down he knows his true character.
William Waller (Matthew Goode), John Waller’s youngest brother, buys both Kunta and Fiddler, which forces Kunta to realize he may have to start a family to continue on his legacy if he can’t save himself. He marries fellow slave Belle (Emayatzy Corinealdi) and they have a daughter, Kizzy (Anika Noni Rose). Kunta teaches her life lessons based on his family’s roots in order to survive and conquer any battle to reach freedom.
Kizzy is ultimately sold to another owner who rapes and impregnates her. That child, George Lea II, is named by her owner after his father. George grows into a talented cock fighter, earning him the nickname Chicken George. After being sold to an Englishman, Chicken George finds even more success in England. After 20 years, he is set free and returns to America to find his family.
While Chicken George does find them, his son resents him for leaving the family. Chicken George leaves his family again to help the Union Army after the start of the Civil War.
With prayer and guidance from his mother Kizzy and his grandfather, Kunta, Chicken George uses his instinct and vast skills to help defeat the South.
Alex Haley (Laurence Fishburne) ends the story of Kunta Kinte and his generations on a positive note. Not only did the slaves earn their freedom but Chicken George’s grandson is born free. The family is finally free at last.
“Roots” is currently airing on the History channel until June 2. To learn more about the series and the cast go to http://roots.history.com