69 pages 2 hours read

Alex Haley

Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1976

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Essay Topics


Content Warning: This section of the Guide contains graphic depictions of enslavement, including violence, sexual assault, and death associated with slavery. The source material contains frequent use of racial slurs and racist language, which are reproduced in this guide only through quoted material.

Describe Kunta’s childhood in Juffure. How does Kunta characterize his village and culture as compared to those of other peoples in Africa? What differences can be found between men and women, adults and children, and various professions in Juffure, and what do these differences reveal about their culture?


Two details about the Kinte clan are given: They are known for travelling, and they began as blacksmiths and weavers. How do these details impact the novel as a whole? Which of Kunta’s descendants fulfill these qualities, and how does this link to the past inform the later generations’ characters and identities?


The Atlantic slave trade brought with it the concept of chattel slavery. How does chattel slavery compare with the slavery Kunta observes in Africa? How do racial distinctions inform these differences?

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