How did Americans react to the original “Roots”?

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Fully 51.1 percent of Nielsen-reporting homes watched the January 1977 finale of Roots. The miniseries was, at the time, the top-rated production ever seen on television. And many of the people watching reacted quite strongly to what they saw. “Roots prompted the first ‘national conversation on race,’ ” historian Matt Delmont writes, “with all the hope, ambiguity, and futility this Clinton-era phrase evokes.”

Delmont’s book Making Roots: A Nation Captivated is a history of the creation and reception of the original Roots book and miniseries. In the course of his research, Delmont collected a group of letters written to newspapers after the miniseries was aired, which you can read on a web page meant to accompany his book.

As the rebooted Roots miniseries airs on A&E, History, and Lifetime this week, I spoke with him about a few of those letters, to try to get a sense of how Americans in 1977 responded toRoots.

Read entire article at Slate

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