LeVar Burton On Slavery And The Impact Of ‘Roots’ On His Career

LeVar Burton, who starred in the classic 1977 miniseries Roots based on Alex Haley’s novel about slavery, says America is still grappling with issues rooted in the horrendous practice.

During an interview with CBS Sunday Morning set to broadcast on Sunday (February 28), the actor explained how institutions that exist today reflect the wrongs from centuries ago.

“Slavery still exists today,” he told host Mo Rocca. “Mass incarcerations of young men of color, the relationship between the Black community and law enforcement, and all of these social issues are rooted in slavery. And America is still grappling with that.”

Burton became the face of the miniseries, which was watched by more than 100 million viewers and presented Burton with plenty of career opportunities.

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“The opportunities immediately post-‘Roots’ were the opportunities of a celebrity,” Burton said. “I loved it. I loved it,” he says. “I mean, I had joined the popular culture.”

In 1987, Burton joined Star Trek: The Next Generation and then spent more than 20 years as the host and executive producer of PBS’ Reading Rainbow.

“Everything that I have done in the field of literacy,” he says, “is a tribute to my mother. As the son of an English teacher to have been part of an effort to turn kids who know how to read into readers for life, it feels pretty good.”

Tune into CBS this Sunday at 9 a.m. EST for the full interview.