Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 2 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 2 Summary

Being primarily a farming community, Juffure prepares for the planting season, the men burning weeds to nourish the soil with the ashes, the women planting new seedlings behind them. Grandma Yaisa enters the scene. She is the matronly woman who is both Kunta Kinte's grandmother and the woman who tends Binta's life-giving rice plot while Binta is recovering from delivery. 

Now Binta comes back to tend her own rice with baby Kunta strapped snugly in a sling and a bundle balanced on her head. She is walking with friends along the banks of the river the Mandinka call the Kamby Bolongo, one of the many tributaries of the great Gambia River. The mangroves and the other perfumed plants fill the air with beautiful scents as Binta walks. Baboons bellow, wild pigs snort, minnows splash, mosquitoes buzz, and the plethora of birds of the Gambia squawk their greeting. The setting leaves nothing to the imagination, with all of the senses stimulated.

Binta reaches her plot of rice, chosen each year by the Council of Elders from the village of Juffure. The size of the plot has everything to do with the number of mouths to feed in the family. Seeing that Binta has had only one son, she still has a small plot of rice. However, there is a surprise waiting for her at this site: a new shelter that Omoro built while Binta was in labor. It is a shelter for Kunta Kinte as he accompanies Binta at her rice plot. Binta shouts with glee.

Binta's work on her rice plot consists of bending double in knee-deep water and pulling out the treacherous weeds that choke and kill the rice if not tended to by her loving hands. During the day, Binta waits to hear Kunta's cries from the shelter and then nurses him, again and again, even when dripping wet from her task. Evenings involve Binta's trip home with Kunta, cooking and serving Omoro his dinner, rubbing warm shea butter on little Kunta, visiting Grandma Yaisa, and sleeping in her safe mud hut.

This is the way that Kunta Kinte grew: in his mother's love and the warmth of the rice crop. 

Omoro has special moments with his son, too. Sometimes Omoro takes Kunta from the womenfolk to his own hut (the men and women sleep separately) and lets him explore charms and bowls and hunting bags and prayer rugs and bows and arrows and spears: all important parts of a warrior's life.

Little Kunta is intrigued with color and is always happy. Binta, although happy with her son and husband, is worried that Omoro might take another wife (as is an ancient custom for Muslims) as he waits for Kunta to start walking and to quit nursing. Therefore, Kunta Kinte walks at thirteen months old and begins to drink cow's milk.