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August 2016
University of California Press

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Making Roots

A Nation Captivated
Matthew F. Delmont

When Alex Haley’s book "Roots" was published by Doubleday in 1976 it became an immediate bestseller. The television series, broadcast by ABC in 1977, became the most popular miniseries of all time, captivating over a hundred million Americans. For the first time, Americans saw slavery as an integral part of the nation’s history. With a remake of the series in 2016 by A&E Networks, "Roots" has again entered the national conversation. In "Making Roots,” Matthew F. Delmont looks at the importance, contradictions and limitations of mass culture and examines how "Roots" pushed the boundaries of history. Delmont investigates the decisions that led Alex Haley, Doubleday, and ABC to invest in the story of Kunta Kinte, uncovering how Haley’s original, modest book proposal developed into an unprecedented cultural phenomenon.


Matthew Delmont is a professor of history and the director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University.

Praise for this book

"Delmont builds his narrative from extensive archival research. His ability to describe these findings in an engaging style keeps the pages turning. Dramatic episodes come alive."

Publishers Weekly

"Long before over-the-counter DNA testing and hashtag history lessons, "Roots" was the connective tissue between America’s racial past and its hopes for a postracial future. "Roots" also gave rise to one of the seminal cultural moments of 20th-century America, which Matthew Delmont deftly excavates and illuminates in 'Making Roots,' a must-read book that demands a re-evaluation of 'Roots' and its conjurer, Alex Haley."

Mark Anthony Neal
Author of "Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities"