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Five lessons ROOTS taught me about life

Last week, a powerful four-part miniseries named Roots premiered on three separate channels, (History, A&E, and Lifetime) and slavery once again was thrust into the limelight. Originally made in 1977, and based off of Alex Haley's novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, this contemporary remake tells the story of Kunta Kinte, a teen kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery, and seven generations of his descendants. First considered "Faction" due to the conversations and activities, there was controversy when when book was released, as Alex Haley said that the novel was actually a history of HIS family. After much debate, Haley finally said that most of books's portrayal of slaves, were actually based on facts of what surrounded the slaves in the South. And critics now consider the novel Historical Fiction. 

In my opinion, if the story is real or not, it doesn't matter. Sure it was wrong of Haley to go around saying that it was HIS FAMILY'S story, but it's still a good book, and historians say that it was an accurate description on what slavery in the South was really about. And through watching the miniseries last week, I learned five valuable lessons about life.

Five lessons ROOTS taught me about life

Live each day like it's your last
Many slave families were born, raised, and died as slaves, and most of the time they lived on the same farm. Unfortunately though, they didn't have any type of stability. If an owner needed money, it was in his right to sell one of his slaves. It wasn't uncommon for a family to be torn apart, and not to have any type of advance notice, so once the work day was finished (usually sundown), slaves spent time with their families. And they increased their family size. They helped each other, and didn't let anyone bring them down.

Stay true to your convictions
Though out the miniseries, Kunta Kinte stayed true to himself. He refused to take on the name that his white slave owner's wife had given him, and was even whipped for it. After a brutal whipping, he finally answered to the name "Toby", but to anyone he met, he introduced himself as Kunta Kinte. Why? Because he believed that his name was all he had; that it was his identity. Through his name he attempted to hold on to his heritage, and would often talk about his home in Africa, along with his parents, and the fact that he was a Mandinka warrior. Eventually he conceded to the truth that he was a slave, and would most likely never see Africa again, but that didn't stop him from making sure his Mandinka ways weren't passed down his his daughter.

Sometimes you need to suck up your pride
Slaves didn't like the fact that they were slaves, and who would? But they often would realize that if that sucked up their pride and didn't retaliate, their lives would be somewhat better. They learned to grow "a thick skin". At a point in the miniseries, Kunta Kinte comes face to face with his previous owner, who steps on his foot and tells him that instead of cutting off his foot (for his multiple escape attempts), he should have just lynched him. Kunta Kinte balls up his fist, but looks down at his daughter for a moment. He then smiles and says something along the lines of "Yessa, Masser, I understand". In that moment, Kunta Kinte realized that his family was more important than settling a pissing match. Because if Kunta Kinte would have punched the white man, he could have been lynched; and his family sold off, just because. Sure, this example really doesn't match up to today's standards, but the essence is this: sometimes when faced with a situation, getting even is not the answer; nothing good can come from it. 

You don't need materialistic things
Slaves lived in deplorable conditions on the Master's plantation, their clothes were ratty as anything, and they didn't have materialistic things; they didn't have access to them and they didn't need them. They would have small things- like songs of their forefathers or a bead necklace handed down through the generations, but that was all. They didn't need expensive things or clothes to make them happy. All they really cared about was each other. 

Never give up
At times in their lives, I can guarantee that slaves thought about taking the easy way out, and even though some did, the majority didn't. They chose to try to live their life to the fullest, well, as much as they could. Once the work day was done, even though they were tired and beaten down, they wouldn't let it stop them from laughing and celebrating. They played music, they danced, they told stories. From sundown to sunup, they relished in feeling like they were human beings, instead of animals. They spent time with loved ones, and didn't fight about stupid things.


Roots also taught me alot about slavery. Throughout school, you are taught that slavery was bad, and the classes usually cover the majority: like kidnapped Africans riding in a boat for 2-3 months, being sold to white owners, white owners being able to do what they wanted, etc. You learn that twelve of our great nation's Presidents actually owned slaves, but it was Abraham Lincoln who freed them. You learn about the atrocities that slaves had to endure, but what you don't see is the perseverance that slaves exhibited. From learning to swallow their pride to never giving up, slaves, as people themselves, can teach everyone valuable lessons. 

If you are interested in watching the miniseries, you can do that here or if you want to learn more about the history of slavery, you can do that here.

Have you even been interested in knowing your own roots? The History channel is running a "Know Your Roots" Sweepstakes. The grand prize is a DNA kit from 23andMe and a trip for two to a geographical region in your genetic makeup. AND 100 second prize winners will win a DNA kit from 23andMe. You can enter here to win --> HERE.


Did you watch Roots? If so, what did you think?

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