‘Roots’ rewind: When Louis Gossett Jr. triumphed as Fiddler

Back in 1977, a rare thing occurred at the Emmys when all nominees in one category turned out to be from the same TV show: “Roots.”

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Louis Gossett Jr. (as Fiddler), John Amos (Toby), LeVar Burton (Kunta Kinte) and Ben Vereen (George Moore) all competed for Best Lead Actor for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series. Prior to the ceremony, the costars banded together to buy ads in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter to declare that, regardless of who eventually won, the award should be considered a victory for all.

On Emmy night, Gossett prevailed, saying at the podium, “‘Roots’ was the most positive thing that has happened for equal right since Martin Luther King.”

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The 12-hour adaptation of Alex Haley‘s book tracing his African-American ancestry sure had positive effects on TV and the Emmys, too.  The most-watched program in the history of television set two award records: most Emmy nominations for a show in a single year (37) and most victories (nine).

“‘Roots’ had a rout!” roared the New York Daily News.

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