My father was, and is, a voracious reader and tucked under the tree was the most talked-about work of the season, especially among African-Americans — Alex Haley’s Roots. I’d read about it, I’m sure, in Ebony or Jet. “The Saga of an American Family.” I cracked open the hefty volume after Christmas dinner … and didn’t put it down until the wee hours of the 26th when I’d turned the 700th page.
Over the long course of that late night, I started wondering about my own Kizzys and Kunta Kintes. Though Roots, largely fictional, is not the miraculous straight line back to the Mother Land that most of us believed it to be when we read the book (or, better yet, sat glued to the TV eating up the mini-series — all those black folk!), it stirred in African-Americans a little anger and a lot of pride and a great desire to reclaim their people and know their pasts. Though I was still a child, Roots was that same spark for me, and I am grateful to Alex Haley for it.