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Photo Credit:  Steve Dietl/A+E Networks
  • Premiered: 
    May 30, 2016
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: History
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Drama
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    Updated version of Roots 
  • Subject Matter: Historical
  • Tags: slavery

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Plot Synopsis

Airing over four consecutive nights with simulcast on History, A&E, Lifetime and LMN, this event series is a remake of the 1977 epic miniseries that attracted over 100 million viewers and earned 9 Emmys. LeVar Burton, who portrayed Kinte in the original, is co-executive producer of the new miniseries. ROOTS is an historical portrait of American slavery recounting the journey of one family's will to survive, endure and ultimately carry on their legacy despite enormous hardship and inhumanity. Spanning multiple generations, the lineage begins with young Kunta Kinte who is captured in his homeland in The Gambia and transported in brutal conditions to colonial America where he's sold into slavery. Throughout the series, the family continues to face adversity while bearing witness and contributing to notable events in U.S. history -- including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings and eventual emancipation. The story of Kunta Kinte and the women and men who came after him echoes through the history of millions of Americans of African descent, and reveals powerful truths about the universal resilience of the human spirit. The network said in a press said "this new version is original and contemporary and draws more from Alex Haley's classic novel, "Roots: The Saga of an American Family." Producers consulted scholars in African and African-American history for added authenticity."

NIGHT 1 (Airing on Monday, May 30 at 9pm ET/PT)
In 1750 in the port city of Juffure, in the river region of The Gambia in West Africa, Omoro Kinte and his wife, Binta, have their first child, a son named Kunta. As a member of the highly esteemed Kinte family, Kunta is trained in Mandinka customs and traditions. He is a dedicated student who dreams of traveling to the university in Timbuktu to become a scholar. Kunta passes his warrior training, an important Mandinka rite of passage, but soon after he is betrayed by the Koros, a rival family. After being kidnapped and captured by the Koros, Kunta is sold to British slave traders in 1767 and is shipped through the brutal Middle Passage to America on the Lord Ligonier along with 140 other slaves. Conditions are horrific on the slave ship and Kunta fears he will never see his family again. He unites his fellow slaves and unsuccessfully leads an uprising on board. In Annapolis, Maryland, he is sold to a Virginia planter named John Waller and is given the slave name Toby. Kunta strongly resists his new name and enslavement. He relies on the wise counsel of Fiddler, an assimilated slave and sophisticated musician who has been assigned to train him. With Fiddler's help, Kunta fights to survive and maintain his dignity despite the unrelenting violence of the slave system.

NIGHT 2 (Airing on Tuesday, May 31 at 9pm ET/PT)
In 1775, Kunta is working on the Waller farm when he meets English Redcoats encouraging slaves to run away and join the English governor's 'Ethiopian Regiment'. The slaves are promised freedom if they fight for King George. However, during the battle Kunta realizes the English are little better than the Americans and takes off. He is apprehended by slave catchers and they amputate half his foot to make sure he never ruins off again. John Waller's younger brother William, a doctor, is outraged at the mutilation and buys Kunta. Kunta is healed by the ministrations of William Waller's slave cook, Belle. After a lengthy, awkward courtship, Kunta marries Belle. Soon after, a daughter is born to the couple. Kunta gives her the Mandinka name of "Kizzy," meaning "you stay put." A clever child, Kizzy is entranced by William Waller's daughter, Missy, mistaking her attention for true friendship. Missy secretly teaches Kizzy how to read and write. Her hidden skills allow her to feel free and actively resist. As a teenager, Kizzy forges papers that help a young slave, Noah, to escape during a terrible hurricane. Her conspiracy is discovered; Kizzy is sold to a poor, white farmer, Tom Lea. Lea rapes Kizzy fathering a son, George. Kizzy vows to instill in her son both her pride in their African heritage and Kunta Kinte's dream of freedom.

NIGHT 3 (Airing on Wednesday, June 1 at 9pm ET/PT)
As George grows to manhood, he exhibits traits of both his parents. Like Tom Lea, he falls in love with cockfighting and carousing. The old slave bird-handler, Mingo, resents George who eventually usurps his position as pit master. The rakish George becomes such an accomplished trainer of gamecocks that he earns the sobriquet of "Chicken George." George marries a preacher's daughter, Matilda, and fathers many children. But George struggles to keep Tom Lea, his father, from his self-destructive ways. From Kizzy, George has inherited the strong traditions of family and a desire to be free. He rationalizes his bond with Tom Lea by convincing himself that one day he can buy freedom for himself and his family. When Tom Lea loses a reckless wager with an Englishman, he sells Chicken George to save his farm. Chicken George is dragged off to England.

NIGHT 4 (Airing on Thursday, June 2 at 9pm ET/PT)
After more than 20 years in England, Chicken George is finally given his freedom by his English owner. George returns to the Lea farm to discover that his family was sold off to North Carolina in his absence. He tracks them down working for Benjamin Murray, a respected engineer at the North Carolina Federal armory. George is reunited with Matilda but finds his youngest boy, Tom, a master blacksmith, is now the leader of the family. Tom is a quiet, hard-working young man but he nurses a cold rage against his father, blaming him for abandoning the family. George is forced to leave the Murray farm and meets up with a young, hot-headed slave, Cyrus. Together they join the Memphis Colored Battery. As the war comes to a close, Chicken George and Cyrus barely escape with their lives. After the war, southern soldiers launch a terror campaign against freed slaves. Tom goes on a journey to find his father and, inspired by a vision of Kunta Kinte, rescues George. Once home, Tom leads his family off the Murray farm, embarking on a new life. True to Kunte's hope, the family finally finds freedom and has kept the family and their traditions intact. In 1976, Alex Haley, a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte, authors and publishes the Pulitzer Prize winning "Roots: The Saga of an American Family."

On Friday, June 3 at 10pm ET/PT, History premiered "A History Revealed," a one-hour, fact-filled special that takes a look at the real history of slavery, as revealed in ROOTS. This documentary features leading historians unpacking the history behind Africa at the time of Kunte Kinte, the Middle Passage, slavery on plantations, the role of African Americans in the Civil War, and how African-American slaves struggled to retain their identity.


Production & Distribution

  • Produced by A+E Studios
  • In association with Marc Toberoff Productions
  • In association with Wolper Organization