Oprah Winfrey will host a reunion of the cast of the miniseries “Roots” at her Montecito, Calif. Home that will air on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 16, on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
The epic story, based on the novel by author Alex Haley, reached television screens 35 years ago and chronicled six generations of a Black family, following them from enslavement into the modern era. The six-part series starred Cicely Tyson, LeVar Burton, Leslie Uggams, John Amos, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Ben Vereen.
The highly-rated series was one of the earliest examples of the miniseries format. It was required viewing for some students at the time, and kept the nation riveted while also occasionally triggering Black-White confrontations as well as discussions about race relations in the U.S.
Haley’s book had also met with controversy, as some critics wondered whether it was based on fact, or was purely fiction. Haley reached a settlement with Harold Courlander, who sued Haley for plagiarism when it was discovered that several dozen paragraphs in “Roots” had been taken directly from Courlander’s novel, “The African.”
“But none of the controversy affects the basic issue,” according to the website of Haley’s publisher, Vanguard Press (http://www.rootsthebook.com/note.html). “‘Roots’ fostered a remarkable dialogue about not just the past, but the then-present day 1970s and how America had fared since the days portrayed in ‘Roots.’”
Oprah’s “Roots 35 Years Later” special will include clips from the production as well as in-depth interviews.
“‘Roots’ forever changed television,” OWN stated in a press release. “For the first time, TV viewers, White and Black, experienced a part of American history through the eyes of slaves. For many it marked an awakening…and for the participating actors and actresses, it was nothing short of a spiritual experience.”