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Roots by Alex Haley - summary and review

Updated on October 12, 2011
Roots The book ,A saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
Roots The book ,A saga of an American Family by Alex Haley

Roots the book, A saga of an American Family

When a book wins a special prize from a Pulitzer board and the National Book Award there must be something special about it. As a Sri Lankan I had a brief idea about the American History but I had no idea of the struggles faced by the Black Americans in the early days until I read this book. Slavery was the root of black Americans and in the early days they were treated like animals , but it says a lot about American People and the democracy in that country that a black American is now ruling them. You don't have to be a black American or even an American to be connected with the characters in this book. A true story spanning six generations the book is story telling at its best, From the African village Juffure in Gambia , slave galleys , slavery to chicken fighting this book is filled with history , culture and mannerisms. A look at American History in a fascinating way.

Roots and other book by Alex Haley

Roots by Alex Haley , summary of the book

It all starts in 1750 , with a birth of a boy in the African village Juffure. Kunta kinte is his name and the first part of the story revolves around him , his childhood , his training to be an adult and you get an idea about the life and culture of a Muslim African village. Then he is captured by the slavers and sold to a plantation. There you get introduced to Bell , Kuntas to be wife and the struggles of Kunta to accept the fact that he is a slave , someone who is owned by someone else. A struggle between his will to escape and be a free man or accept the fact he is a slave. Then Kunta and Bell gets married and Kizzy is born. Then Kizzy is sold because she commits a crime and the new owner rapes kizzy. This is a powerful passage of the book where it shows how families were broken up and suffered because of slavery and how slave owners treated slaves like property having there way with them whenever they wanted. Kizzy also marries and have children the most famous of them all Chicken George was fathered by the slave owner Tom Lea. The story of George is mostly about chicken fighting , he marries Mathilda and they save money to buy themselves out of slavery. But tragic events and Chicken Georges greed ends that chance. Mathilda gives birth to many children and Tom is the eldest , he turns himself into a fine blacksmith as well. This is the period where the war ends and the slaves are given freedom. This passage takes a look at how they dealt with freedom after living so long as slaves. Tom marries Irene and Cynthia is one of there daughters. Cynthia marries Simon Haley and he they give birth to the child named Alex Haley.

Mixture of emotion , culture and History

As I mentioned before as a Sri Lanka who have very little idea of slavery and American history I thouroughly enjoyed the book. The emotions and the suffering of the slaves are described very vividly by the author and there are so many instance where your heart goes out for them wishing for the best and hoping something can be done about it. The passage of the book where Kunta was first taken to slavery and also the scene where Kizzy was sold and there parents were weeping was personaly very sad moments for me. If you are an Ameican this is one of the best books you can read about the slavery and how much slaves suffered during that period. A must read for any book lover.

Breaking of Kunta , From the TV series based on Roots by Alex Haley

Critcism and paying damages for Plagiarism

Although Roots won many awards and the TV series and other works based on it won many awards his claims of Roots being a true story suffered heavy setbacks. First of all there is the incident where he had to pay 650,000$ because of plagiarism because some paragraphs of the book appeared on The African by Harold Courlander. A lack of evidence to support the historical claims was another reason why Haley's reputation took a pounding. When the the book was first released it created such stir in America most people were reluctant to come forward with these claims of false data. The book publishers and the producers of the TV shows never took much interest in the accusations of false claims because they were making good profit from selling the book and the TV show.


Even if the historical facts cannot be verified and although Alex Haley paid damages because of plagiarism there is no denying the fact that this is a great book. I thouroughly enjoyed reading at I have no doubt anyone who loves book will enjoy reading this book too :-)


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    • profile image

      XXXXX 4 years ago

      The heart rending descriptions of human sufferings in ROOTS enables us to think about humanity.

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      muhammad shabir 4 years ago

      Roots show the difference between people and show the conflicts between suprior and inferior ,show the conflicts between culture and show the difference the good and the evil nature of humanbeing

    • profile image 5 years ago

      My opinion of the top of the page: The african slaves were not treated as animals! Who evver in this world treats his/her animals that bad?

    • profile image

      Dave 5 years ago

      What must be understood about Roots is that Alex came very close to accurately gathering a remarkable history of his mother's family going back 7 generations to Africa. Alex correctly traced his roots through Chicken George, the grandson of Kunta Kinte. Where he erred a bit was in trying to trace Kizzy (mother of Chicken George). It is true that he made a few assumptions that he should not have and that he jumped to a few conclusions prematurely. However, when combining the oral history from his family, with what he found in his research was admirable. His Grandmother Cynthia (mother of Alex's mother, Bertha George) lived until 1949. She was well familiar with her Father Tom Lea (Harvey) and her Grandfather Chicken George who himself, by verifiable county records lived until 1890. Thus clearly Alex found more than enough data to show a direct lineage to Chicken George Lea. As critics of Alex have since discovered, Alex (most likely through oral tradition passed down from Chicken George to his Grandmother Cynthia Palmer) tied together the oral stories of Kunta Kinte who had his foot chopped in half in punishment for attempting escape. Alex just barely missed in his conclusions. He actually found the right "Waller" family. Had he looked a little longer he'd have seen that his ancestor was actually not Toby but a man named Hoping (hopping) George. Colonel Waller also owned a slave named Isbell. These would have been the Grandparents of Chicken George and parents of Kizzy. Instead Alex focused on a slave named Toby belonging to Dr. Waller and his brother (sons of Colonel Waller). This is exactly the same family that Alex traced his roots to, but he found the wrong slave. The name Toby was never passed down through oral tradition. Alex assumed that Toby was his ancestor based on finding a slave in the records named Toby that the sons of Colonel Waller owned. This assumption was incorrect but Alex had found the precise family of his ancestor (the Waller family). Had he kept looking he would have seen that Hopping George and Isbell (Bell) were his ancestors and that Kizzy would have been born earlier than he thought. This logic explains all of the time gaps Alex has been unfairly criticized for. He did not get the name of the ship correct as that was a guess but he certainly captured the essence of a slave ship based on numerous first hand accounts. Alex was so close but because he made mistakes people overlook his amazing accomplishments. God bless you Alex and thank you!

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      Kayla 6 years ago

      i have really wanted to read this book. i sounds like a good one.

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      Gidz 6 years ago

      what a remarkable tour-de-force

    • readtoawakecom profile image

      readtoawakecom 6 years ago

      I love reading good books and good articles like this one. Thanks

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      Elmira 6 years ago

      i love this book i've studied it for more than 10 times. and always when i come to the part that it tells about Alex's try to find his roots, i get so excited and always has this fear if he could not!!! and any time i get to this point i read these pages so fast to see finaly wether he would be able to find it or not.

      every time i cry when he reaches to the jufure! and finds his origins and people.

      even now my yes are full of tear!

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      A Cat 7 years ago

      You left out a generation in your synopsis. Cynthia didn't marry Simon Haley. She married Will Palmer. They had a daughter, Bertha, who married Simon Haley.

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      writeprofessional 7 years ago

      Boy, I'm sorry folks, but looking back, it was a looong movie!

      Here's part three!

      Let me pause you here a moment because oviously this hubster doesn't review his hub very often... rule said don't try to make random hits to make your points go up it didn't say you couldn't monitor your hubpages; check in and check on 'em from time to time... like now! :-D

      Anyway, glad you all have enjoyed ROOTS, HOPE IT WAS A LEARNING PROCESS You all who have read the book thought it powerful on paper, now see how powerful the film was

      Imagine this on your television screen, in an era of racial discord running rampant.

      It was powerful stuff back then and should be remember as a way of life that we never want to see again!

      ...and before I start philosophyin'

      PART III:

    • writeprofessional profile image

      Bobby Fleeks 7 years ago from A Cloud this side of Heaven

      Just found Part II for ROOTS:

    • writeprofessional profile image

      Bobby Fleeks 7 years ago from A Cloud this side of Heaven

      ...just a note to those who say, see, it says in the movie credits, 'from the Alex Haley Book' - oh ye of "know little how the game is played in Hollywood." Yes, the book was in the works while the film was being made.

      It still didn't receive publicity or recognition till all the racial stuff had died down after the television series ended.

    • writeprofessional profile image

      Bobby Fleeks 7 years ago from A Cloud this side of Heaven

      YOU HAVE GOT TO WATCH THE MOVIE to fully understand the ROOTS phenomenon!

      Reading the book is like after the fact, since the book was written after the movie was made, and became a best seller in the years that followed the success of ROOTS THE MOVIE.

      Alex Hayley wrote the story in pieces and those piece because the script for the screenplay, that they were hot to produce.

      The movie was a phenomonal hit and affected an entire nation touching the world.

      The book came some time after the hoopla and riots calmed down or "unrest" as they called it back then.

      You must see the movie to really get the feel of the story and you can see it here on stagevu at:

      Let the movie build up to play, but one you see the actual movie, go read the book and see the difference.

      The movie is way better!

      And to the ignoramus that said this wasn't real, doesn't know any black people! It was all too real!


    • profile image

      i*am*a*master 8 years ago


      U R OLD!!!!!!!!!

    • rumbling profile image

      Nishadha Silva 8 years ago from Sri Lanka

      You are welcome creativeone , I thoroughly enjoyed the book and when I joined the hubchallenge it was one of the first things that came to my mind

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Hey, Thanks for a great Alex Haley hub, thanks for sharing. creativeone59

    • rumbling profile image

      Nishadha Silva 8 years ago from Sri Lanka

      ha ha you must be old if you saw the miniseries in the first run , think it was shown around 70's , I read the book with no idea about the back ground about the book , it is easy to understand why it caused such stir

    • sabrebIade profile image

      sabrebIade 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Wow...I was lucky enough to see the miniseries first run here on TV.

      Yes I'm old...LOL


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