Roots parents guide

Roots Parent Guide

The injustices and violence depicted here honor the memory of those lost to slavery, but also make this remarkable series recommendable only to older teens and adults.

Overall A-

Best-selling author Alex Haley chronicles his genealogical roots from Kunta Kinte, who was abducted from his African homeland in 1765, to Chicken George, who eventually leads his family to freedom after the Civil War.

Release date December 31, 1969

Violence C
Sexual Content C-
Profanity B
Substance Use C

Why is Roots rated Not Rated? The MPAA rated Roots Not Rated TV-14

Run Time: 570 minutes

Parent Movie Review

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.

Directed by David L. Wolper Productions. Starring LeVar Burton, Todd Bridges, Robert Reed . Running time: 570 minutes. Theatrical release December 31, 1969. Updated

Rating & Content Info

Why is Roots rated Not Rated? Roots is rated Not Rated by the MPAA TV-14

Overall: A- Best-selling author Alex Haley chronicles his genealogical roots from Kunta Kinte, who was abducted from his African homeland in 1765, to Chicken George, who eventually leads his family to freedom after the Civil War. The injustices and violence that depict the hardships of the times honor the memory of those lost to slavery, but also make this remarkable series recommendable only to older teens and parents. Please note that this film also contains female nudity as well as some scenes of sexuality.

Violence: C Leopard attacks and feeds on goat. Animal skinned with knife. Characters attend a wrestling class where they are flipped and tossed. Character dies at sea and his body is tossed overboard. Character chooses suicide by jumping off ship. Battling characters use swords, knives, guns, whips, and a cannon, resulting in capture, injury, or death. Character is chased and captured with the use of dogs. Characters punished and controlled with whips throughout, including one very intense scene.

Sexual Content: C- Men are dressed in scant tribal attire and females are seen bare-breasted in first episode. Implied rape of numerous characters. Young females purchased for sexual purposes. A private body part is indicated in a joke made by characters.

Language: B At least: 6 mild profanities, 2 terms of Deity used as expletives, 2 mild insults, and 16 racial slurs.

Alcohol / Drug Use: C Characters smoke cigars. Herbal paste used as antiseptic before a surgical procedure. Characters drink rum and other types of alcohol, and one character is portrayed as drunken. Medicines and tar used to seal wounds.

Miscellaneous Concerns: Possible other concerns may include a very convincing portrayal of childbirth as well as a circumcision. Characters shown chained together, ankles and wrists bloodied, laying in their own vomit. Demeaning terms used to describe Africans and African-Americans throughout.

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Roots Parents' Guide

Slavery may have been abolished long ago, but prejudice has not. Why can’t changing a law change a person’s attitude? How has the history of slavery in America’s past contributed to racial tensions that exist today?

What lessons can you learn from the suffering of this people? How can these insights be applied to other situations?

To learn even more about the production of Roots and the history of African-Americans, check this website:

Roots played an important role in a renewal of interest in one’s genealogical history. If you have a desire to trace your roots, check out the wealth of information available at—it’s free.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of Roots movie is January 15, 2002. Here are some details…

DVD notes…

After spending 573 minutes watching this powerful miniseries, a push of a button lets you view it again with many of the stars, directors, and producer David L. Wolper filling you in on the creation and history of the production. Unfortunately most of the commentary we listened to was of a general nature rather than commenting on the actual scene at hand, however the passion of the people involved in creating this milestone production comes through in anecdotes and stories.

Maybe the only other complaint about this DVD is that it looks too good. No one ever thought this film would be seen with such clarity, making Kunta Kinte’s African community look a little contrived, as does the makeup on some aging characters. Certainly the images far surpassed the little 21-inch television I originally watched it on.

DVD Release Information:
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • Theatrical release date: 1977
  • DVD release date: January 15, 2002
  • Runtime: 573 minutes
  • Production company: Warner Bros.
  • Package type: Box set
  • Aspect ratio: Full Screen standard - 1.33:1
  • DVD encoding: Region 1
  • Available audio tracks: English & Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono).
  • Available subtitles: English, Spanish, French.
DVD Extras:
  • Commentaries by episode stars, and executive producer David L. Wolper
  • Behind the scenes documentary, Remembering Roots (2002)
  • Interactive Roots Family Tree and website links

Related home video titles:

For other films that deal with social issues arising from slavery, check out:
Down In The Delta
A Family Thing
Freedom Song
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?
Malcolm X
Remember The Titans
To Sir, With Love.

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