The fourth episode of the 2016 version of Roots entails Chicken George (played by Regé-Jean Page) returning to his family as a free man after being sold in England; it also entails his involvement in the Civil War, as well as his son’s, Tom (played by Sedale Threatt, Jr.).
Because Chicken George was away for twenty years, this is the first parent-child relationship that doesn’t have warm and fuzzy beginnings. That’s why, for a while, Tom wasn’t willing to hear his father’s stories of Kunta Kinte and where he came from. However, towards the end of the episode, he wants to tell his newborn daughter, Haley’s grandmother, his ancestral story, because she is the first child of his who wasn’t born a slave. It goes to show how even as traditions are either taken away or forgotten, they are also exchanged and honored in some form and fashion.
This is a beautiful remake of the 1977 original we grew up to know and gain influence from. But after this final episode, why can’t further the homage to Haley’s story? In 1979, another series to display all of the areas of Haley’s legacy from his grandmother to Haley himself in the present-day aired on television: Roots: The Next Generations. I can’t speak for everyone, but I wouldn’t mind a new version of that original.
I can see why the fourth episode ended this Roots season as it did, because it’s similar to how and why the original Roots ended. Viewers had to witness the sweetness of freedom for these beloved characters, and how their ancestors before them did not die in vain. Moreover, the symbolic tradition of picking up the dirt of one’s footprints indicate how they’ll find a way to return to them, shows how Alex Haley was willing to return to his roots, as a rite of passage for those in his lineage who couldn’t return.
However, an important point is brought up by someone who says to Chicken George: “Some white men ain’t never gonna let that go. Won’t like us being free.” Therefore, there may always be a towering majority force, trying to take certain bits of freedom away.
This interaction highlights how we as viewers should acknowledge the form of discrimination and struggles African Americans continued to face after the Civil War. In Roots: the Next Generations, Haley displays how African Americans were kept from voting, assaulted by the Ku Klux Klan, and weren’t offered as many stable opportunities as their white counterparts. To say that the struggles of the black community ended once slavery ended is false, the stories after that is our proof.
A retelling of Roots was able to acknowledge how the black community, as laborers, soldiers, and more, is what made America continue to stand on its own two feet. I believe a retelling of Roots: the Next Generations could be another great opportunity to educate viewers on a continuous depth of historical contributions.