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Roots - slave cabin conversation

by Matt Delmont

The scenes in the slave quarters offered some moments of wry humor. For example, in this scene viewers heard about American colonists defeating the British through a dinner conversation among Belle, Fiddler, and Kunta:

Belle: I’ve never seen white folks carrying on so. They all so happy, they can’t believe it. They keep saying over and over, “The British have surrendered. The war is over, the war is over. Freedom is won.”

Fiddler: Ain’t that just fine, though? White folks be free. I’ve been worrying and tossing at night about them getting their freedom, been the mostest thing on my mind. Sure is one happy nigger now. Don’t have to worry about them poor white folks no more.

This brief exchange unsettles the usual chronology of American history, marking the nation’s independence day as just one of the thousands of days before and after the Revolutionary War that black people were held in bondage. This scene calls to mind Frederick Douglass’s “What to a Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” where Douglass told an audience of New York abolitionists in 1852, “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice. I must mourn.” Roots is an American story, but it is organized around the dates that are important for Haley’s generational story, not the usual dates found in US history textbooks.

Roots - slave cabin conversation

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Slave cabin conversation with Fiddler (Louis Gossett, Jr.), Belle (Madge Sinclair) and Kunta Kinte (John Amos).

from Roots (1977)
Creator: ABC/David Wolper Productions
Distributor: ABC
Posted by Matt Delmont