Back in February 1998, I totally usurped the lesson plan of my social studies teacher—a very verbally aggressive woman named Mrs. Garner—by bringing in Part 1 of the Eyes on the Prize series. I had checked it out from the Smithfield Branch of the Birmingham Public Library and persuaded her to let us watch it during class. I remember that catchy theme song and the class thanking me. That series represented the best television series I had seen regarding Black History until December 17, 2002. That brings me to this week’s Black History subject in the Flashback Friday series: the Roots miniseries.
How I first came across this subject? I first came across the series when my then-girlfriend introduced me to it. As Triumphs & Tribulations III tells it, we were in her dorm room playing Scrabble and she swore that she was “gonna whip me like I was Kunta Kinte”. That’s when I revealed to her that even though I had heard about the story of Kunta Kinte through the years—mostly the foot getting chopped off part—I had never seen Roots. She was astonished. She immediately set out to change that. We walked over to the Mervyn H. Sterne Library and checked out the series on VHS. We basically spent the day watching it in her dorm room.
What it meant to me then? I was actually quite moved by what I saw. I actually shed some tears when I saw the scene where Kunta got whipped until he acknowledged his slave name. While we were dining in at Al’s later that evening, I remember expressing both surprise at the graphic detail of the series—even for the 1970s, well before the TV content rating system became prevalent—and embarrassment for not having seen it years before.
What it means to me now? So it’s been just over 15 years since I first saw Roots. Surprisingly, I’ve only watched the 1977 series once…that time in 2002 with Valorie. I did watch the remake that The History Channel did a couple of years back. It didn’t have the same effect on me. Nevertheless, Roots was a fantastic watch but probably one I got enough in me to watch 1-2 more times the rest of my life.