In a village somewhere near the Gambia River, Binta (Cicely Tyson) struggles to give birth. Soon, proud father Omoro (Thalmus Rasulala) presents his new son to the universe and names him Kunta Kinte. With wise and loving guidance from his parents, the child develops in a rich and diverse African culture during the 1700s. At fifteen years old, he is ready to enter his manhood training, where he will learn all that is necessary to become an adult and tribal warrior.
In a distant place, another kind of preparation is underway. Thomas Davies (Edward Asner) surveys the inventory of his vessel: branding irons, thumb screws, neck and leg shackles. The religious first-time captain of a slave ship clearly wrestles with the morality of this venture, while his crewmen look forward to their pillage and full purses at journey's end.
Inevitably, the slavers arrive and the abductions begin. Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) and others are ripped from their homes, chained together, and packed literally like sardines amidst pools of their own vomit. These terrified victims endure the long ocean voyage only to be sold as slaves to the highest bidder in the New World. Thus begins the epic masterpiece chronicling the family of author Alex Haley as they strive for freedom during America's tumultuous infancy.
Parents have a lot to take into consideration when evaluating the appropriateness of Roots for their families. The compelling story pierces the soul and cries out at the injustices inflicted, and the complacency that facilitated man's brutality to man. As a result many content concerns arise: Female nudity reflects the tribal clothing standards, barbarous slave traders are guilty of numerous rapes (implied, not seen), and young girls are sold for sexual purposes. The film is punctuated with violence including a distressing scene of unrestrained whipping.
Despite the dire circumstances presented in this drama, there is joy to be found. Roots beautifully demonstrates the strength and comfort derived from the family ties and close friends of a people who had nothing else. Our hearts soar as we watch an entire society triumph over ignorance and oppression.