Here are some of the themes I've discussed with my 8th grade American History class over the past two weeks that are alluded to in the above scene from Episode Six of Roots:
  • Sharecropping - "I'll be damned if I give my n***ers any part of my farm."
  • The fear of white Southerners that African-Americans were "forgetting their place" - "They're putting on enough airs as it is, without making them land-holders."
  • The post-war labor crisis - "Someone's got to work our land..."
  • The 13th Amendment - "...and the n***ers are done being slaves."
  • The fact that most southern wealth had been invested in slaves before the War and now all that money is gone - "I've got no cash to pay wages, so I got to parcel out shares."

[Note - Id like to point out that at this point, we are a grand total of 41 seconds into this scene.]
  • Military occupation of the South during Reconstruction - "He's talking sense, boys. There's going to be a Circuit Judge through here regular and the Army's here to back him up."
  • The birth of white supremacist groups - "We ought to band together and string a few of them up, just to set an example for the rest."
  •  Changes in military technology - "I come out [of the War] with a Yankee Minié ball in my knee and I come out plus a limp I'll have all my natural days."
  • How sharecropping stacked the deck against the recently freed African-Americans - "And somehow, he never manages to catch up on the cost! Ain't that right, Senator?"
  • The agricultural economy of the South - "It doesn't matter who works the land; what matters is who owns it. Property is power; it always has been and it always will be."

Roots comes in for a lot of criticism, and certainly it has its flaws, but for clearly demonstrating a LOT of historical themes in a very efficient and gripping way, it is the best tool in my box.