Saturday, May 21, 2016


There is so much I like to write about this, but I decided to leave it as it is . There is so much to say about ROOTS, and the new ROOTS soon to air this Memorial Day weekend . I am sure that ,  what ever Haley wrote then  is being "interpreted" for a new generation.
Next Week three network channels plan to air the "rebooted" ( my opinion , watered down ) version of Alex Haley's controversial  quasi - historical novel Roots.  While researching for my blog post I came across numerous articles about Haley's work. As stated by NewsweekRoots remains the third most-watched miniseries of all time. It is also still considered the definitive mainstream portrait of slavery in the U.S. Airing in 1977 to an America still adjusting to a post-civil rights reality, the show was both controversial and educational. Honestly I will try to give my perspective on it . The reception about Roots has not been good over the last decades.The Author Alex Haley has been accused of perpetuation of fraud . Way back in 1977 as a young boy sitting in the living room watching the ABC movie of the week . I remember , that before the mini-series began there was a "parental warning " about "nudity, violence" , what they left out of the picture was a bunch of white actors/ actresses calling a bunch of black actors/ actresses the (1)>> " N WORD" in  the miniseries ( The same with the sequel : Roots , the next generation ) . I was in shock as a young boy seeing actor Ralph Waite from THE WALTON'S tv show cussing , showing lust after some semi-nude captured African women who were being horded up on board the ship the  (1.2)>>Lord Ligonier. The worst offender in the first episode waCaptain Davies and “Girl on Ship”. Capt Davies was
played by (1.2.b)>>Ed Asner , he was "guilt ridden" captain of the Lord Ligonier. A character that was never really part of book.  The Museum of Broadcast Communications recounts that for the first episode of the televised version of Alex Haley’s Roots, “the writers created a conscience-stricken slave captain, Thomas Davies,” played by Ed Asner, “a figure who did not appear in Haley’s novel but was intended to make white audiences feel better about their historical role in the slave trade.” Conscience-stricken or not, Asner’s slave captain is depicted delivering his human cargo to the slave dealers in colonial America. And no one picketed Rootscome awards season for endorsing slavery for obvious reasons, even though by Asner’s reasoning they should have.While everyone agreed that the recreation of the slave ship’s voyage made for frighteningly realistic television, none of the Roots production team gave much thought to what shooting this scene would mean for the black performers involved. The case of Rebecca Bess is the most glaring example in this regard. Credited as “girl on ship,” Bess appears near the end of the first episode as an enslaved woman delivered to Captain Davies’s room as a “bellywarmer.” In the scene the sixteen-year-old Bess, who had never acted professionally, stares with terror at Asner’s character, her arms covering her bare breasts. While Captain Davies says he “does not approve of fornication,” it is implied that he rapes the young girl, signaling that this Christian character has too been debased by the slave trade. The next day (at the start of the second episode of the series), the young girl (still topless) climbs the rigging of the ship and jumps into the ocean to drown. Here I am citing some of the examples to how the directors and producers added "shock value" to the miniseries  , which through it's eight parts , if you "watched" as a young person , these images will be forever implanted.

 Haley claimed that his alleged “direct ancestor”, (1.3)>>Kunta Kinte, came to America in 1767 aboard the Lord Lignonier, a British slaver. Yet a check of the records available show slave ownership records for this same Toby as far back as 1762, five full years before he allegedly was brought to America. These same records also shred much of the oral history he claims was carefully preserved by his family. I remember reading Roots was like reading the "bible" in some ways . Kunta Kinte is brought to America as a slave , he marries , he fathers Kizzy , and in the African tradition he holds up his newly born to (1.4)>>Allah ( god) to the starry heaven beginning a new tradition for his future progeny  . It vary biblical , here Haley injected the first "myth" to his story . That Alex Haley's view point is that HIS ancestors were chosen by God . I was not referring to other African Slaves in the Haley's story ,( you have to pay vary close attention to the story line , not have missed it )  whom were written in as secondary characters, since Haley himself was embellishing an old myth to suit the line of Kinte for himself . There so may critical points to the book , one of which is the portrait of the whites themselves who enslaved the Africans . The whites all of them were painted as being evil degenerates , sadistic , without any godly morals . At the end of the mini-series , we encountered the ONLY "friendly whites" in Haley's story , they were dirt poor , dumb , and helped old Chicken George fight off a bunch of Klan . With all the misery in the story about slavery . Haley's book was politically painting a wrong picture about American history that All WHITES are evil , it left out numerous positive credible sources that would have made a better story .
Plagiarism ? NO!
When Haley was alive, he dodged calling “Roots” non-fiction or even historical fiction. He preferred made-up hybrid descriptions like “faction,” much like Norman Mailer used “factoid” to describe his own colorful and Pulitzer-winning reporting of the political events of 1968.It is not news to black scholars that Haley made mistakes. He, or perhaps lazy assistants, as Haley claimed, might have swiped passages from others, including less celebrated black scholars like Margaret Walker, who also sued Haley for allegedly plagiarizing passages from her Civil War novel “Jubilee.”But, a huckster? A “hoax”? A “fake”? A “con”? Those are Nobile’s words. He’s a good reporter, good at uncovering facts, but I think he missed the larger, more important truth. If “Roots” was a hoax, it was a hoax Americans wanted desperately to believe, which says something more important about Americans than anything Nobile says about Haley.But plagiarism is the least of the problems in "Roots." And they would likely have remained largely unknown, had journalist Philip Nobile not undertaken a remarkable study of Haley's private papers shortly before they were auctioned off.The result was featured in a devastating 1993 cover piece in the Village Voice. It confirmed - from Haley's own notes - earlier claims that the alleged history of the book was a near-total invention of (2)>>Harold Courlander, the first hundred pages were lifted from the book " The African". Unfortunately, the general public is largely unaware of how Haley’s monumental family autobiography, stretching back to 18th-century Africa, has been discredited.Indeed, a 1997 BBC documentary expose of Haley’s work has been banned by U.S. television networks – especially PBS, which would normally welcome such a program. Harold Courlander, who was white, wrote a novel called "The African" in 1967. The book had a similar story of a slave's capture in Africa, his horrific experience as cargo on a ship and his struggle to hold on to his native culture in a harsh new world. While there are major differences between the two books, Courlander and several expert witnesses testified that Haley had used "The African" as source material — both for his 1976 book and the 1977 TV miniseries, which was seen by about 140 million viewers.
The mini-series it's self was one of the first in a long run mini-series to follow on TV . ROOTS is the king along with SHOGUN . Here is what the rest of the social media has been saying about Haley's book . It's not good :

“Roots” was based on the late Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning runaway best-seller, which was billed as a factual account (albeit with some fictional embellishments) of his family’s history from Africa through slavery in the South to present times. Black thinker Thomas Sowell, who has written prolifically on race and slavery, makes the same point as Crouch—even if not quite as bluntly. Regarding the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, Sowell remarks that Roots “presented some crucially false pictures of what had actually happened—false pictures that continue to dominate thinking today.”For instance, “Roots has a white man leading a slave raid in West Africa, where the hero, Kunta Kinte [supposedly, Haley’s ancestor] was captured, looking bewildered at the chains put on him as he was led away in bondage.” Moreover, even “the village elders” likewise appeared perplexed by the sight of these “white men” who were “carrying their people away.” In glaring contrast to this depiction, Sowell correctly asserts, the location from which Kunta Kinte was taken—West Africa—had been “a center of slave trading before the first white man arrived there—(2.2)>>and slavery continues in parts of it to this very moment.” He adds: “Africans sold vast numbers of other Africans to Europeans. But they hardly let Europeans go running around in their territory, catching people willy-nilly” (emphasis added).According to Sowell, Roots did more harm than good in fueling “the gross misconception that slavery was about white people enslaving black people.” In reality, “the tragedy of slavery was of a far greater magnitude than that.” Slavery knew no racial boundaries. “People of every race and color were both slaves and enslavers, for thousands of years, all around the world.” Sowell likens slavery to cancer in that it transcends time and place. He concludes: “If reparations were to be paid for slavery, everybody on this planet would owe everybody else.”

 Thomas Sowell hit a point , one issue is that Haley missed a lot of historical research about Africa in the 1750s . The lack therefore of any thing "historical" in Roots was not exactly the point . If their being any kind of exaggerations by the author alone . The story unfolds tranquilly enough. (3)>>Born in 1750, Kinte grows up in a peaceful, sheltering community along the Gambia River in West Africa. He is well schooled in math and writing and the Islamic faith. At age 17, Kinte is snatched from his youthful idyll by the evil, club-bearing “toubobs,” or white people.When he finally regains his senses four days later, Kinte finds himself chained in the stinking, claustrophobic hold of an ocean-going vessel, manned by ugly toubobs, all of them seemingly British or American. After a hellish journey, he arrives in Annapolis, attempts to escape four times, and is subdued only after some poor, white bounty hunters chop off half his foot. The year is 1767.In Haley’s tale, it is the whites who enter the forest and enslave the blacks, not Arab slave traders, not other blacks. Since Kinte is unconscious through the period of transaction, the reader has no picture of African participation in the slave market, nor of any Portuguese or Hispanic involvement in the slave trade.As a Muslim, Kinte does not sense any virtue in Christianity. Indeed, it strikes him as crude and hypocritical. Coming of age during the revolutionary period in Virginia, Kinte sees the revolution as inherently fraudulent: “‘Give me liberty or give me death,’ Kunta liked that, but he couldn’t understand how somebody white could say it; white folks looked pretty free to him.”
Historical Errors ?
A book as massive as THE BIBLE . As a novel
ROOTS was entertaining literature with
a message , but not historical .

Haley's search started with a family tradition about a proud and rebellious slave ancestor who - had been given the name   the slave-name of 'Toby' - was always proud of his African name 'Kintay' along with a few remembered African word supposedly passed on down through the family. Haley tracked 'Toby' to the slave plantation of John Waller (named, for some unknown reason, 'Reynolds' in the TV miniseries - see here for a long list of differences between the TV miniseries and the book), he used the few remembered African words to track down Toby's birthplace to The Gambia in Africa, and he even found the ship - called the Lord Ligonier - which he believed had brought Toby to America in 1767.The book ends when Haley, having gone back the village of Juffure in The Gambia, visits a local oral historian - a 'Griot' - who tells him of one Kunta Kinte who was captured by white men in the woods and taken as a slave. It is a thrilling and moving moment. Through that moment, not only Alex Haley, but millions of other Black Americans learned to value their African lineage - at the time, it was a significant moment in the Civil Rights movement, and part of the raising of Black awareness.But Haley was not a professional historian - he wrote for Playboy magazine - and when they began to check his genealogical research, family historians Gary Mills and Elizabeth Shown Mills found LOTS of mistakes.One of the worst was that the 'Toby' on the Waller estate came to America, not in 1767, as Haley claimed, but in 1762.Worse still, 'Toby' died eight years before Alex Haley's great-great-great-grandmother Kizzy (who Haley said was Toby's daughter) was born - so he CANNOT have been Haley's ancestor.Other historians, including a BBC documentary, have shown that the 'griot' who Haley met in Juffure was not a griot at all, but a 'nice old man' who had been pressurised by the Gambian tourist board into saying what Haley wanted to hear - certainly Juffure has profited from the tourist trade generated by Haley's book.
 Roots still has its supporters, but nobody nowadays tries to claim it is true - they argue instead that perhaps Haley's ancestors didn't come from Juffure and maybe weren't the people Haley thought - but they MUST HAVE come from Africa, and they WERE SURELY captured and brought as slaves on a slave ship - so the story is true in spirit, even if the names are wrong. There is one particular aspect that is probably exaggerated greatly in Roots. Since the slave was a valuable piece of property (as sad as this sounds), it was probably not realistic that a slave's master would deliberately brutalize something so valuable. Punishments were common for slaves who misbehaved or tried to escape, but some portions of the novel (and especially the TV mini-series) showed slaves being abused and even killed for no good reason.As for CONTENT, the information above about Haley's errors of fact, and possible exaggeration of setting could be set against what the pupils are learning in the classroom about the general facts of the slave Trade to come to a conclusion about the video's factual accuracy. However, this in no way takes away the importance of the historical representation of slavery that Haley depicts in his novel. It is an accepted and verified historical fact that slavery is one of the most inhumane movements every practiced by the human race.Roots was a phenomenon in itself; hugely successful, and accepted by both black and white, it set the standard interpretation of slavery and the slave trade for a generation, and played a powerful role in the resurgence of Black awareness and the civil rights movement .

(1)>> " N WORD". In the old TV series Roots , the white slaveholders constantly used racial slurs , though I might imagine that the white  actors/ actress may have been uncomfortable using the N-word .The history of the  N word  is often traced to the Latin word niger, meaning Black. This word became the noun, Negro (Black person) in English, and simply the color Black in Spanish and Portuguese. In early modern French, niger became negre and, later, negress (Black woman) was unmistakably a part of language history. One can compare to negre the derogatory N-word  and earlier English substitutes such as negar, neegar, neger, and niggor that developed into its lexico-semantic true version in English. It is probable that n-word  is a phonetic spelling of the White Southern mispronunciation of Negro. I honestly find the word offensive as much as saying a four letter word to some one . It's ingrained in the "consciousness" of the individual that a word can have a powerful effect .  It's like like taking a slap in the face . We also must remember that the few nasty words in our vocabulary started out hundreds of years ago as innocent "words" that now come
back and bite like a bullet . (1.3)>>Lord Ligonier. was an 18th-century slave ship built in New England that in 1767 unloaded slaves in Annapolis, Maryland. The ship was made famous by the novel and television series Roots, as the ship that brought the main character, Kunta Kinte, from the Gambia to the United States.A surviving advertisement records the arrival of the ship with a cargo of slaves at Annapolis in September 1767. This was the basis for Alex Haley's assertion in Roots that his supposed ancestor Kunta Kinte was brought on that voyage. The TV series based on the book invented a failed slave uprising during the voyage.  While (1.2.b)>>Ed Asner character in Roots was highly developed, full of metaphors on tortured ethics and the morality of slavery, biographer Alex Haley would later admit he had no idea who the actual Captain was who had commanded the historic slaver which had kidnapped his ancestor.In a series structured around the will of Haley’s ancestors to survive, Bess’s “girl on ship” stands out as the only character to choose death over the horrors of slavery. Bess came to Roots via Eddie Smith, a local black stunt coordinator in Savannah. She received $187 for diving from the ship into the ocean, which she had to do twice because the camera failed on the first shot. Bess did not know how to swim, so the stunt coordinator gave her lessons in the pool at the Ramada Inn where the cast was staying. Director David Greene recalled that Bess was eager to earn the money to help her parents because her mother was in the hospital. Audiences described watching Roots as a physically and emotionally wrenching experience, but creating these realistic representations of slavery often came at the expense of black performers.  (1.3)>>Kunta Kinte. Haley claimed that his sources for the origins of Kinte were oral family tradition and a man he found in the Gambia named Kebba Kanga Fofana, who claimed to be a griot with knowledge about the Kinte clan. He described them as a family in which the men were blacksmiths, descended from a marabout named Kairaba Kunta Kinte, originally from Mauritania. Haley quoted Fofana as telling him: "About the time the king's soldiers came, the eldest of these four sons, Kunta, went away from this village to chop wood and was never seen again." However, journalists and historians later discovered that Fofana was not a griot. In retelling the Kinte story, Fofana changed crucial details, including his father's name, his brothers' names, his age, and even omitted the year when he went missing. At one point, he even placed Kunta Kinte in a generation that was alive in the twentieth century. It was also discovered that elders and griots could not give reliable genealogical lineages before the mid-19th century, with the single exception of Kunta Kinte. It appears that Haley had told so many people about Kunta Kinte that he had created a case of circular reporting. Instead of independent confirmation of the Kunta Kinte story, he was actually hearing his own words repeated back to him . (1.4)>>Allah (god). Kunta Kinte's African-Muslim identity was part of a much larger movement that took place many years before Kunta was born in the novel Roots. At the height of its expansion, Muslims lived in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. During their religious expansion, Muslims gained a vast amount of land, and Muslims held religious and political influence over the Middle East. Muslims had control over different Christian and Jewish territories in the West, and they influenced the actions and lives of these two religious groups. Muslim attitudes towards women were influenced by African groups. The persistent signification of Haley’s mythology in black cultural representations suggests that Roots entertains some semblance as a canon portrayal of African-American history in the minds of African-Americans in particular, Americans in general.  (2)>>Harold CourlanderApproaching 70 when “Roots” debuted, Harold Courlander was shocked to read it. For the previous 30 years or more, Courlander had been traveling the world collecting folk tales and writing about his findings.In 1978, Courlander sued Haley in a U.S. District Court in New York for copyright infringement. The suit cited 81 passages that had been lifted from Courlander’s “The African,” as well as the plot and certain characters. Haley’s defense fell apart when, during discovery, the plaintiff’s lawyers found three quotes from “The African” among his typed notes, notes that he had apparently failed to destroy.The last thing the judge wanted to do was to undermine a newly ascendant black hero. Midway through the trial, he counseled Haley and his attorneys that he would have to contemplate a perjury charge unless they settled with Courlander. They did just that to the tune of $650,000, or about $2 million by 2005 standards. In return, Courlander agreed to keep quiet about the suit, which he did until he died in 1996.The media paid scant attention to the suit and even then failed to explore the real gist of the scandal: namely that the author of a “nonfiction” book plagiarized from a fictional one. (2.2)>>and slavery continues in parts. Actually,  think the brutality of slavery, not just in the physical sense, but in the social sense as well, is many times minimized in historical presentations.  Hollywood certainly has a checkered past when it comes to presenting historical fact or even accurate depictions, but as this genre of films goes, Roots is pretty good.  I do agree with post #4 in that a minority of slaveowners were actual sadists, but the physical violence (not the least of which was sexual abuse) against slaves, in my opinion, does not receive enough emphasis in cinema or literature, and even in historical texts.  (3)>>Born in 1750, Kinte grows up. In his book: The World and a Very Small Place in Africa, Donald R Wright (2004) points out that Juffue was far from the quiet idyllic backwater it appears as in Haley's book - it was a busy commercial centre, a few miles from the British slaving port. It was part of a western Africa regularly swept by famines, wars and slaving raids.And although in Roots, Kunta Kinte is captured by white 'toubobs'; in reality he would almost certainly have been sold by Black Africans as part of a commercial business deal.And - most controversially of all - it has been suggested that even the depiction of the Middle Passage in Roots might be overdrawn. Although it is fairly certain that everything that happened to Kunta Kinte DID happen to some African slave at a  time on some ship, it is arguable that slave ships as brutally cruel as Haley's Lord Ligonier were rare - it was in the interests of slave traders to keep their cargo strong and healthy, records show that a greater proportin of sailors than slaves died on the Middle Passage, and most of the classic horrors of Middle Passage turn out to be abolitionist propaganda.

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