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    SUBJECTS — U.S./1629 - 1750 & Diversity;

    Age: 12+; Not Rated; Drama; 1977; 90 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     Roots is a video presentation of Alex Haley's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Volume II portrays Kunta Kinte's voyage across the Atlantic in a slave ship and the first years of his life in America as a slave.

    Benefits of the Movie:     The series describes important aspects of the black experience in the U.S. and, for all Americans, helps in facing the legacies of slavery and segregation.

    Possible Problems:    MINOR. There is some violence in this film. It is appropriate to the message of the movie.

    Parenting Points:    Before watching the movie, review the Helpful Background section and describe its contents to your child. Immediately after the movie ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question, the Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Question under Surviving, and the Question on Morality and Ethics.

    Alex Haley


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project and Movies as Literature Homework Project.

Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  The "Roots" series won a Golden Globe Award as the Best Television Series of 1978, nine Emmy Awards, and many other honors.

      Featured Actors:  LeVar Burton, Edward Asner, Louis Gossett, Jr. Loren Greene, Robert Reed, Ralph Waite, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Lynda Day George, Vic Maro, Paul Shaenar, Ren Woods.

      Director:  David Greene and John Erman.

QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:  Who was corrupted by slavery?

Suggested Response: Here are just a few examples: owners of slave ships, captains of slave ships; the crews of slave ships; slave owners, the children of slave owners; white employees of the slave plantations, such as overseers; slaves who gave in to the system and served as informers and enforcers. The point is that slavery corrupted everyone who was associated with it except for most of the slaves.
    Helpful Background:

    See the TWM student handout Slavery: A World-Wide View, Then and Now.

    The "Golden Triangle" was a shipping route by which American (mostly New England) boat owners would take tobacco and other agricultural products and sell them in England; purchase manufactured goods in England; take those to various destinations to obtain commodities and then return to North America. The shipping triangle shown in this episode was tobacco to England (leg one), trade goods to Africa (leg two), slaves to America (leg three). Other trading routes included tobacco and other agricultural goods being sent to England, traded there for manufactured goods, which would then be taken to the West Indies and exchanged for sugar or rum, which would then be taken to North America. Yet another route was ice from the ponds of New England, taken to the West Indies and traded for sugar or rum, which was then taken to England and traded for manufactured goods, which were then brought home to New England.

    One of the most corrupting aspects of slavery was the sexual exploitation of female slaves. This was true of Roman slavery as well as slavery in the U.S. (see Spartacus). This episode shows a young slave girl being encouraged by her grandmother to enter the hut of the overseer to serve as his bed wench. These problems are elaborated in later "Roots" segments.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: "the Golden Triangle"

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  Should the mother have protested and tried to stop her daughter from being taken as a "bed wench" by the overseer? What would this have accomplished?

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    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)

    1.  Is it possible for a slave owner to act respectfully toward his or her slave? Suggested Response: No. The very nature of the slave/master relationship is for the owner to take advantage of the slave. The slave serves the owner without recompense. A good employer/employee relationship is much different. The employer pays for the work of the employee at a reasonable rate. An employer can also train an employee so that he can undertake new responsibilities, have a more satisfying job and make more money.

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

    Bridges to Reading: Older children who are good readers will enjoy the book Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: All other "Roots" episodes and "Amistad".

    Links to the Internet: None.



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