Iowa man arrested for kidnapping and forcing woman to watch ‘Roots’ to understand her racism

Mohammed Awal February 18, 2020
Robert Noye; Image credit: The Gazette

An Iowa man has been arrested after he reportedly kidnaped a woman and forced her to watch “Roots” – a 1977 miniseries about slavery, chronicling the author Alex Haley’s family line.

Robert Lee Noye, 52, was arrested on Monday.

A criminal complaint stated that Noye forced the woman to sit with him at a residence in the 700 block Second Avenue SW and watch the nine-hour miniseries “so she could better understand her racism”, Cedar Rapids Newspaper, The Gazette reports.

The complaint further noted that Noye warned the woman when she tried to move that “he would kill her and spread her body parts across Interstate 380 on the way to Chicago.”

According to The Gazette, Noye faces charges of first-degree harassment and false imprisonment.

More than 28 million viewers watched the first episode of the miniseries “Roots” when it premiered on Sunday, January 23, 1977.

Following the January 23 premiere, public interest surged as the saga unfolded, according to

The January 30 finale captivated more than 100 million Americans (more than half the country and nearly 85 percent of all television households), breaking all previous rating records. 

The finale remains the third-most watched single episode of all time, trailing only the final episode of “M.A.S.H.” and the iconic “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of “Dallas.” 

The show featured a vast array of African American talent, from newcomer LeVar Burton (still a teenager when he was cast as young Kunta Kinte) to O.J. Simpson and Maya Angelou in small roles. When “Roots” was re-aired the following year, it again captured the audience’s attention, as did a 1979 sequel that followed Haley’s descendants into the 20th century.

According to Barbara Maranzani, the cultural impact of “Roots” was immediate as critics and journalists lauded the series’ frank depiction of slavery and the resulting (albeit difficult) conversations between black and white Americans about a previously taboo subject matter.

Also, civil rights leader and historian Roger Wilkins wrote in The New York Times that the program’s importance was comparable to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Selma-to-Montgomery March of 1965, and credited the show with upending centuries of racial stereotypes.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: February 18, 2020


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