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Dates That Matter

January 23, 1977

The mini series "Roots" begins airing on ABC.

 Why does it matter?

The mini-series "Roots" is one of television history's most influential programs. Based on a book by Alex Haley about his search for his African ancestors, it aired for eight straight nights to huge audiences. TV executives had feared that the story of a slave named Kunta Kinte and his descendants would not be appealing to a wide audience, but the series had the highest ratings in history. In addition, the series proved that a show with African-American heroes could be popular. Many of today's well-known African-American actors were featured in the series including LeVar Burton (who played Kunta Kinte as a young man and is better known for his roles on Star Trek and Reading Rainbow), Cicily Tyson, John Amos (who played Kunta Kinte as an adult), Louis Gosett, Jr., Ben Vereen, Richard Roundtree (who later starred in "Shaft"), Maya Angelou (now known primarily as an author and poet), and even O.J. Simpson. The series won 9 Emmy Awards.

For more information...

From the Museum of Broadcast Communication, a good overview of the series and its impact on television history.

Kunta Kinte--Alex Haley Foundation
This site profiles Alex Haley, the author of the book about his African ancestors that inspired the mini-series.