Part 1: Sunday, 4/8 at 8 p.m. (EST)
One remarkable night in the year 1750 a baby boy is born in The Gambia, West Africa. His name is Kunta Kinte… and so starts the tale of one tribal family made up of Binta (Cicely Tyson), Omoro (Thalmus Rasulala) and Nyo Boto (Maya Angelou).
Young Kunta (Lavar Burton) grows up free and happy, guided to manhood by his father and other African tribesmen, until at age 17, when he is taken prisoner by slave-catchers and shipped to America.
Part 2: Monday, 4/9 at 8 p.m. (EST)
Onboard the slave ship, Kunta is involved in a disastrous attempt to rebel before his arrival in Annapolis, Md. There he is sold to his first owner and meets his first and only friend, an American-born slave called Fiddler (Louis Gossett, Jr.).
In spite of protests by his cruel overseer, Kunta’s new owner insists that his friend Fiddler break him in as a new slave. Kunta tries to break his chains and escape, but he is captured and whipped into submission, being forced to say that his name is “Toby.”
Part 3: Tuesday, 4/10 at 8 p.m. (EST)
The year is 1776 and the adult Kunta (John Amos) has lost none of his rebellious will. His final escape attempt costs him his right foot. On the plantation of his second owner, the now crippled slave is nursed back to health by a slave woman called Bell (Madge Sinclair).
Two years later Kunta becomes the plantation owner’s personal wagon driver. In this position, he learns the secrets that the other slaves and servants always want to know – such as the affair between the owner and his brother’s wife. Soon, with the encouragement of his wise friend Fiddler, Kunta jumps the broom with Bell. Soon after they have a daughter named Kizzy and Kunta passes up his last chance to escape.
Part 4: Wednesday, 4/11 at 8 p.m. (EST)
It is now 1806 and Kizzy (Leslie Uggams), now a teenager, helps a young slave to run away. As punishment she must be sold, and she is rejected even by her one white friend. The horror of separation from her family is magnified a thousand-fold when she is immediately raped by her new owner.
In 1824, Kizzy is now the mother of a boy nicknamed Chicken George (Ben Vereen), who is known as an excellent trainer on the grubby plantation where fighting roosters are raised.
Soon, as word of a slave rebellion led by Nat Turner reaches the plantation, the owner’s wife becomes terrified of all Black people, and the slaves are guarded by the master’s gun. Chicken George, who has taken a wife, is sent to England to pay his owner’s debt, with the promise that he will return a free man.
Part 5: Thursday, 4/12 at 8 p.m. (EST)
It is 1859 and Chicken George returns to the United States a free man. He is reunited with his family. The possibility of abolition is in the air and George’s freedom is deeply resented by many white men, especially two vicious, racist brothers named Evan (Lloyd Bridges) and Jemmy Brent (Doug McClure). When the Civil War begins, George’s son Tom (Georg Stanford Brown) is recruited by the Army to work as a blacksmith, but then cruelly mistreated.
Part 6: Sunday, 4/15 at 8 p.m. (EST)
The Civil War is over, but freedom has a bitter side effect, as emancipated Blacks are still being treated as slaves. Chicken George and his family are constantly harassed by hooded “nightriders” and exploited by men such as Evan Brent and a carpet-bagging Senator. Finally, in a move that will truly affect generations to come, Chicken George’s family move to the tiny town of Henning, Tenn. to start a new life.