I am reading Roots in April 2013. It is very interesting to me that it came out in a time in which I should have been interested in the book. However, I was involved with young children and I guess that I was pretty much unaware of anything but my family in that time period. It is amazing that I have never read this book before.
Brought up on the stories of his elderly female relatives—including his Grandmother Cynthia, whose father was emancipated from slavery in 1865—Alex Haley claimed to have traced his family history back to "the African," Kunta Kinte, captured by members of a contentious tribe and sold to slave traders in 1767. In the novel, each of Kunta's enslaved descendants passed down an oral history of Kunta's experiences as a free man in Gambia, along with the African words he taught them. Haley researched African village customs, slave-trading and the history of African Americans in America—including a visit to the griot (oral historian) of his ancestor's African village. He created a colorful history of his family from the mid-eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth century, which led him back to his heartland of Africa.
Roots: The Saga of an American Family is a novel written by Alex Haley and first published in 1976. It tells the story of Kunta Kinte, an 18th-century African, captured as an adolescent and sold into slavery in the United States, and follows his life and the lives of his alleged descendants in the U.S. down to Haley. The release of the novel, combined with its hugely popular television adaptation, Roots (1977), led to a cultural sensation in the United States. The novel spent weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List, including 22 weeks in that list's top spot. The last seven chapters of the novel were later adapted in the form of a second miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations, in 1979.
Following the success of the original novel and the miniseries, Haley was sued by author Harold Courlander, who successfully asserted that Roots was plagiarized from his own novel The African, published nine years prior to Rootsin 1967. The resulting trial ended with an out-of-court settlement and Haley's admission that some passages within Roots had been copied from Courlander's work.
As for the novel's historical accuracy, researchers have cast doubts on whether Haley truly tracked down his ancestry to a specific village and individual, or was merely being told what he wanted to hear by the people who lived there.
First part of the book is about the time in Africa. When Kunta Kinte looses his beloved grandmother, his father tells him that there are three kinds of people in the village. Kunta is comforted by his father's explanation: the first kind are those who are alive and go about eating and working. The second kind are the ancestors whom his grandmother has just joined. And the third are the people who are waiting to be born. It is interesting to me that these people spent eight days choosing a name for their male children trying to choose something from their ancestry....how much their ancestors were indeed a part of their lives in the stories passed down. We, as a people, have lost that concept of living among our ancestors.