WAS THE TV MINI-SERIES “ROOTS” A FACTOR IN TRACING YOUR OWN ROOTS?
“Roots” made such an impression on me, that I look forward on this 35th Anniversary of the mini-series to hear how it inspired you! www.africanancestry.com family member, Paula Whatley Matabane (Washington DC) shares that she had high praise for the series but for one issue:
“I’m Southern, and when I heard the dialogue, I knew no one had coached the actors. It irritated me to no end. If they were Shakespearian actors they’d have to learn the Elizabethian language. So why didn’t these actors have a dialogue coach? Also, in the book, Kunte doesn’t speak English for a long time. This was a powerful way of preserving his true identity and culture. That power was lost in the TV series by ignoring Kunte’s non-English period and the inauthentic dialogue.”
Despite Paula’s issues with the dialogue, she still applauds the series for the audience it drew, and she’s been deeply rooted – pardon the pun – in chasing her roots ever since. “I come from a family of griots,” she explained. In fact, Paula’s maternal grandmother actually wrote her own autobiography in 1948. “My family shared stories from generation to generation because we believe that you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.” She traced her father’s line as far back as the 1700s, and she knows that her ancestors ended up on a plantation in Russell County, Alabama.
Paula’s great, great grandparents, Cornelia & David Silas
But Paula wanted to know more! Relying on DNA, she embarked on a search with a company that could trace her roots to West Africa. That still wasn’t enough for her! Then, thanks to the www.africanancestry.com database, she was able to trace her maternal line to the Mende people living in Sierra Leone today, and the Temne of Guinea-Bissau. Paula shares, “When I first got the results, I was ecstatic! Ironically, long before DNA testing, a Creole (Krio) sister from Sierra Leone became my best friend and was present in the delivery room when my daughter was born in 1977 – yes, the same year “Roots” premiered. Learning about my Mende roots made me wonder if this sister was sent by the Mende and Temne ancestresses to look after me.” Hey, you never know, my Mende cuz! Thanks for sharing, Paula!
Now it’s your turn… On this 35th Anniversary of “Roots,” let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) if and how the series influenced you to trace your roots, and give us your feedback on the mini-series itself. Look for comments from some of the stars of “Roots” who traced their own roots in my future blogs. Until then… Amani (peace)!