This epic story is truly one of a kind. Haley traces his own family back to the year of 1750, a truly remarkable feat considering that Haley is African American. Beginning with a small African tribe he traces his family roots beginning with the now famous Kunta Kinte and his ultimate capture. A special appreciation is to be had for the beginnings of this story as it is obvious that Haley took the time to learn and study Kinte’s culture at that time. His terminology and such lend credibility to the story, and ultimately show us the reality of the kidnapping of Africans for slavery.
Roots takes us from generation to generation, beginning with the first slave captured, and ultimately ending with Haley himself. It lead to an endless amount of African Americans questioning their own heritage, seeking answers that other nationalities can readily find. The story, rich in meaning, hope lost, and gut wrenching reality, is a must read for every American. It helps to understand the story of the African American; it forces you to understand the story of the African American. While at times it can be painful (for instance, Kinte’s journey through the middle passage is an especially painful portion of the book), it is important to note that many, many African Americans will never be able to what Haley did. Considering the amount of time over which this story takes place, it is amazing to note that his ancestors were not owned by more families, like I am sure many African American ancestors were. Such a helter skelter array of ownership and splitting of families would make it impossible for many of us to trace our family much further back then the last slave.
Haley succeeds in making the slavery experience and the African American experience a reality for the reader. Haley succeeds in making history come alive – something that many fail at. This story should be required reading for all.