Published in October 1976 amid significant advance expectations, Roots was immediately successful, garnering a slew of positive reviews and debuting at #5 of The New York Times Best Seller list (with The Times choosing to classify it as non-fiction). By mid-November, it had risen to the #1 spot on the list. The television adaptation of the book aired in January 1977, further fueling book sales. Within seven months of its release, Roots had sold over 1.5 million copies.
In total, Roots spent 22 weeks at the #1 spot on The Times' list, including each of the first 18 weeks of 1977, before falling to #3 on May 8. It did not fall off of the list entirely until August 7. Ultimately, it was on the list for a total 46 weeks. Together, the success of the novel and its 1977 television adaptation, sparked an explosion of interest in the fields of genealogy and researching family histories.
Haley earned a Pulitzer Prize special award in 1977 for Roots. The television miniseries garnered many awards, including nine Emmys and a Peabody.