Roots: The Complete Miniseries

Season 1 Episode 8

Part 8

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Jan 30, 1977 on ABC
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Episode Summary

Part 8

In the dramatic conclusion of the miniseries, the Civil War has ended with the surrender of the south and freedom for the slaves. However the economically devastated plantations still have a need for workers, but few have the money to pay wages for what was once done for free. Thus the system of sharecropping is born, eventually trapping Tom and his family in a life of perpetual labor. Added to this burden are vicious "night riders" who burn and pillage plantations at night, terrorizing the newly freed slaves and further hindering their ability to farm and pay off their debts. But in the midst of a seemingly never-ending cycle of despair, Chicken George returns, announcing his purchase of land in Tennessee, and devising a plan that would allow them all to safely leave their sharecropping plantation in Virginia, and settle as free men and women on their own land.


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  • roots

  • 10
    His good men
  • What everyone was waiting for...

    Back in 1977, when "Roots" ran the entire week for 8 nights, although it captivated viewers at the time, there was notably some drop off as the series progressed. However when it came time for the finale that Sunday night a week after it first premiered, anyone who had been faithfully following it, those who may have missed some during the week, and those who didn't even view it earlier, all tuned in to watch. And with that, this final installment broke all ratings records and held the coveted title of "most watched" episode of any type of all time for American television. In fact, it held that position for some 6 years until usurped by the finale of "M*A*S*H" which I very much recall watching myself in the dorm lounge on a 19" color TV (I was a senior in college at the time and only had a 13" B&W but was grateful for

    Although incorporating some well-needed humor courtesy of Ben Vereen's "Chicken George", the episode gave one a sharp contrast in how the son of a slave-owner could evolve into a fine gentlemen when removed from the discordant and dysfunctional life on a plantation, after having been sent overseas to live amongst those who started this institution but finally saw the error of their ways and banned such.

    And with the backdrop of the Civil War and the roller coaster ride for the enslaved community, the sharp contrasts continue between elation and despair, particularly when in an echo of Part 3 where Kunta Kinte was brutally whipped, we find his great-grandson Tom facing the same sort of treatment - a purposeful but necessary commentary on how this ugly institution, despite being legally disbanded, would not go away quickly.

    And with a little bit of a Hollywoodism that ends the miniseries on a more positive note, "Chicken George" is able to bring his brood out of Virginia and off their nightmarish plantation, and into Tennessee to live and work on land he purchased himself after having been freed - the land bought from the winnings of his occupation as cock trainer and fighter.

    And so concluded a historical and ultimate historic (from the television perspective) miniseries that would define the potential of the miniseries, beyond what its predecessor "Rich Man, Poor Man" could ever do.moreless
Lloyd Bridges

Lloyd Bridges

Evan Brent

Guest Star

Brad Davis

Brad Davis

Ol' George Johnson

Guest Star

Hilly Hicks

Hilly Hicks

Lewis Harvey

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Tom: (After Lewis insults George for being white) Sit down and shut your mouth, Lewis. You've about said enough for one day, and you're just lucky Mama wasn't here to hear you say it!

    • Tom: If we don't give the law a chance, freedom ain't worth a damn.

    • Chicken George: (to his sons) Alright. Let's look at it like it were a military operation. Here we are, surrounded by the enemy, out numbered, out gunned, and half our troops are women and children. On the face of it, it looks pretty bad. Hopeless position. That's our one strong point.
      Lewis: That don't hardly sound like no strong point to me daddy.
      Chicken George: The way I figure, Brent and this Senator must be feeling mighty smug riding through here. Feeling like they got us right where they want us - towing the line, scared to death. Well from now on, we're gonna do everything we can do to make sure they go right on feeling that way.

  • NOTES (1)