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Roots: The Gift
File:Roots The
Approx. run time 100 minutes
Genre Period piece
Directed by Kevin Hooks
Produced by David L. Wolper
Starring LeVar Burton
Louis Gossett, Jr.
Country  United States
Language English
Original channel ABC
Release date December 11, 1988
Preceded by Roots: The Next Generations
Followed by Alex Haley's Queen

Roots: The Gift is a 1988 television film. It is the third installment of the Roots series, which traces the maternal family history of African American author Alex Haley, starting with his great-great-great-great-grandfather Kunta Kinte. The film premiered on ABC on December 11, 1988, with AT&T as the sole national sponsor for the broadcast. LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett, Jr. reprise their respective roles of Kunta Kinte and Fiddler. The film is not considered a strict sequel because it takes place in between the second and third episodes of of the original Roots miniseries.

The film was crafted as a Christmas movie. As one of the characters explains, the "gift" referred to in the title is freedom.

Roots: The Gift is also notable in that it features four actors who each portrayed a major character in a Star Trek television series: Burton (Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager), and Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager).[1]


Plot summary

In December 1775, Cletus Moyer (Brooks) is a free black Northerner in colonial America, working with a pre-Underground Railroad network to help slaves escape captivity. In the days just prior to Christmas, a group of bounty hunters led by Hattie Carraway (Mulgrew) captures Moyer near the Parker plantation in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Because of his capture, dozens of slaves who have already left their plantations in escape attempts are in danger of being captured as well. Moyer implores two slaves from the nearby Reynolds plantation to take his place: Kunta Kinte (Burton), a Mandinka in his mid-twenties who was captured in what is now Gambia, and Fiddler (Gossett), an elderly man who was born into slavery. Kunta is eager to help (and to escape himself), but Fiddler is unwilling, fearful of the consequences if they are caught.

After an unsuccessful slave revolt elsewhere in the colony, Moyer and two of the Parker slaves are hanged by Carraway's men on Christmas Eve, prompting Fiddler to set aside his fear and help Kunta lead the runaway slaves to freedom. Although the pair successfully leads the runaways that night to their next stop on the Railroad -- a boat waiting at the river -- there is no room for the two of them, forcing them to return to the Parker plantation and manufacture an excuse for their temporary absence. Nevertheless, Kunta and Fiddler are left with the satisfaction of knowing that they helped to give a group of fellow slaves the best Christmas gift of all: freedom.



Following a brief introduction by Alex Haley, the film opens with a replay of a memorable scene from the second episode of the original Roots miniseries: Following the first of many unsuccessful escape attempts, a prideful Kunta is publicly and mercilessly whipped until he agrees to assume the English name "Toby", which was selected for him by his new owner. Afterwards, Fiddler tends to the semi-conscious Kunta, telling him "You know who you be" and that it does not matter what anyone else calls him.


  1. When the film first aired in December 1988, The Next Generation was in its second season, while the premieres of Deep Space Nine and Voyager were both years away.

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