The present work was commissioned by TV Guide as a cover illustration for the national broadcast of a miniseries based on Alex Haley's best-selling book of 1976, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The vibrant colors and disparate parts—a slave ship, the silhouette of Africa, and a striking bust of a man wearing an American flag shirt—dynamically illustrate the complex, difficult heritage and layered tensions of African American identity. As the Smithsonian American Art Museum explains: “By including contemporary, often conflicting, references to historical origins in an image meant for a wide audience, Bearden's work highlights a black history and identity that were becoming widely valued and debated.” Bearden’s work remains more relevant than ever today amidst the continuing struggle for equality and justice for the black community.

When I conjure these memories, they are of the present to me, because after all, the artist is a kind of enchanter in time.

Romare Bearden