Power Relationships Within Roots

Alex Haley's 1976 novel, Roots, portrayed the history of a Kunta Kinte's family as an epic story of survival. Haley presented the history of a man and his family torn apart, but not broken, under enslavement in America. The experiences that ravaged Kunta Kinte's family life display the lack of institutional power of those enslaved. Although Kunta and Bell do not have institutional power, they do possess a limited amount of power within their nuclear family unit. Haley's depiction of an enslaved family contradicts reports on the black family by sociologists such as E. Franklin Frazier and the Moynihan Report, which supported a matriarchal family structure. Roots depicts Kunta and Bell as equals, with regards to the amount of power vested in each individual. Neither the female nor the male, has a greater amount of power. Both are virtually powerless. Haley's novel, Roots, portrays the conflict between the lack of institutionalized power and the limited amount of familial power.

Roots was published at a time where the structure and history of the American black family was a very contentious issue. In 1965, approximately ten years before the novel's publication, the U.S. government published the Moynihan...

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