DARC Ethiophile Chronicles
On this day
January 23, 1977 ABC-TV begins televising the Roots mini-series (which would go on to be the most watched mini-series in history), based on Alex Haley's book.
The topic of slavery is very much on people’s minds through a string of popular movies including last year’s Django Unchained, this year’s Oscar hopeful 12 Years A Slave, and with Lee Daniels’ The Butler also touching on the subject.
Roots became a cultural phenomenon when it premiered on ABC in January 1977, airing over eight consecutive nights. An unlikely hit with a largely black cast and a slavery theme, it broke ratings records, with the conclusion drawing 100 million viewers, almost half of the entire country. The mini also is credited with helping improve race relationships and establish David Wolper’s miniseries style of blending fact and fiction in a soap opera package. The mini earned a record 36 Emmy nominations, winning nine including best limited series; supporting actor for Ed Asner; and music, shared by Quincy Jones. Thirty seven years on, Roots has shown remarkable longevity, consistently drawing solid ratings for its reruns. Last December, BET’s 35th anniversary airing draw 4.1 million viewers for the opening two parts.