According to The Gazette, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, man was accused of holding a woman captive to give her a history lesson using the nine-hour miniseries. The show was adapted from Alex Haley‘s classic novel of the same name, which chronicles his family line from the capture and enslavement of his ancestor Kunta Kinte to the liberation of Kente’s descendants.
Robert Lee Noye forced the woman to sit with him and watch the series at a residence in the 700 block of Second Avenue SW. The 52-year-old had her watch the series “so she could better understand her racism,” according to a criminal complaint.
When the woman tried to move, Noye told her to “remain seated and watch the movie with him or he would kill her and spread her body parts across Interstate 380 on the way to Chicago,” according to the complaint.
Noye was arrested on Monday and he faces charges of first-degree harassment and false imprisonment.
The book “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” was published in 1976 and became an overnight critical and commercial success, according to History.com. It would eventually spend more than four months on The New York Times bestseller list, selling more than 6 million copies. It was also translated into more than 35 languages and earned Haley a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize.
When the show was turned into a series, premiering on Sunday, January 23, 1977, the first episode was viewed by over 28 million viewers. As the saga continued, viewership grew and by January 30, the finale brought in more than 100 million Americans (more than half the country and almost 85 percent of all T.V. households). The finale still holds the title as the third most-watched single episode of all time behind the final episode of “M.A.S.H.” and the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of “Dallas.” The cast included veteran and newcomer talent, including the lead LeVar Burton who played Kunta Kinte. Folks like O.J. Simpson and Maya Angelou also had small roles. The series was so successful it re-aired the next year, still holding audiences’ attention. It also has a 1979 sequel that focused on Haley’s descendants into the 20th century.
Although “Roots” has been challenged for its historical accuracies and there were even accusations against Haley for plagiarism, the show can definitely be used as a tool for Black History lessons.
Kidnapping someone just isn’t the way to do it.