Roots Historical Context

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Haley began writing his novels during the Civil Rights movement, and he researched and wrote Roots at a time when African Americans and European Americans were reevaluating slavery and its legacy. Many Americans believed in what has often been called the "Gone With the Wind version" of slavery, in which enslaved Africans were happy-go-lucky, childlike people who were cared for by benevolent, paternalistic masters. One consequence of the Civil Rights movement was the reevaluation of this myth.

The reality of slavery was much more complex. White masters were certainly invested in the myth of paternalism, which allowed them to justify the enslavement of human beings on the grounds that the relationship of slaves and masters was a reciprocal one—the master took care of his slaves and claimed the fruits of their labor.

Although African Americans opposed this myth, they were often able to use paternalism...

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This section contains 811 words
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Buy the Roots Study Guide
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Novels for Students
Roots from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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