The new version of "Roots" tells a darker, more violent tale of the African slave trade and the treatment of those captured.
‘Roots’ | History Channel remake tells Kunta Kinte’s horrific story
The days where every single TV in America could and would be tuned to the same program at the same time are long gone thanks to the hundreds on hundreds of channels now available. But somehow, “Roots” has still managed to grab the attention and support of viewers on Monday (May 30th) — Memorial Day.
The tale of Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby) is a familiar one to anyone who read “Roots” in school, or grew up watching the original 12-part mini-series. Now, we have an updated version for the country to be captivated with all over again.
This new version tells a darker, more violent tale of the African slave trade. This harsh story is told through the eyes of Kunta Kinte, a captured African slave, and 100 years of his descendants.
From the day of his birth in Juffure, Kunta Kinte’s story is mired with the threat of slavery.
We get to see the baby whose name is his shield grow into a Mandinka warrior, who through a series of unfortunate events, is captured and sold.
The most heartbreaking part of Kunta’s story — besides the way he is robbed of his African name and renamed Toby by his master — is the way he doesn’t seem to understand how the other slaves on the plantation obey their commands without any dreams of freedom.
He remarks very early on that there is only one white slave driver in the fields, overseeing dozens of slaves. “Why don’t they run?,” he asks.
The contrast between someone born free — who has had that freedom stripped from him — and the people who were born into slavery, having internalized it to such a degree is jarring. Fiddler’s (Forest Whitaker) contentment — and subsequent realization of his true predicament thanks to Kunta — is a particularly terrifying lens to view the institution of slavery through.
The first episode ends after Kunta’s second failed escape attempt and the brutal whipping he gets as punishment. After finally abandoning his African name, and along with it, all hopes of returning to Africa, Kunta seems more than defeated; he’s broken.
If you were hoping to see what fate befell Kunta’s beloved Jeena, expect to be disappointed. The most tragic — and ultimately realistic — part of “Roots” is the way stories are left untold. After being captured with Kunta and most likely sold off at the same market, Jeena is never seen or heard from again. Unfortunately, this is probably how her story would have played out in reality.
As the four-night event carries on, viewers should expect to see a continuation of this trend of untold stories. It’s common knowledge most American slaves did not see happy endings. More often than not, their endings were lost to history.
The “Roots” mini-series continues Tuesday (May 31st) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the History Channel.
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