Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 20 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 20 Summary

Omoro and Kunta have to walk faster than ever in order to reach the new village by sunset. Kunta listens to the overlapping drumbeats that announce all the important travelers coming to the founding of the new village. Finally, Omoro and Kunta arrive and are welcomed as honored guests.

Kunta is beside himself with joy both with the welcoming party and with the reunion of his uncles. Kunta immediately notices the differences between Omoro and his two brothers (both from another wife). Janneh and Saloum are shorter, stockier, and more muscular; they are also quicker in speech.

Omoro and Kunta are given a grand tour of the village. Kunta notices all of the interesting improvements that Janneh and Saloum have made. Each hut has a private yard, and each food storage container is suspended above the fire to keep the contents free from critters. Kunta also marvels at the number of different tribes represented in the new village. All the new people who were unsatisfied with their past living situations are happy to come and live here. Kunta starts to note the subtle differences between tribes. The Fulas have faces stretched lengthwise and have thinner lips. The Wolof are as black as night. The Serahuli are short and lighter-skinned. The Jolas have tattooed themselves all over and look ferocious.

Suddenly the village is full of excitement for a very holy “marabout” that is arriving soon. Kairaba Kunta Kinte, Kunta’s grandfather, was also a marabout and the savior of many villages.

In anticipation, Saloum tells a great story of the “mountain of gold” that the toubob came to Africa to find. The gold, of course, is in the tributaries...but no one ever tells the toubob that important piece of information. Janneh then adds his own story about a city made of salt. He also adds the description of “strange humpbacked animals” called "camels" that Saloum and Janneh have been blessed to ride.

Janneh and Saloum then show the entire group a map of Africa drawn on a hide. They point to the ocean (or “big water”) as well as the place with the unending desert and lush forests. They explain the trade between the African and the toubob for things that both need or want.

Finally, the marabout arrives with his entourage. The marabout, hearing that Kunta Kinte is not only Omoro’s first son but also named after Kairaba Kunta Kinte, gives Kunta a special blessing. Kunta uses his only two shells to buy a tiny square of cloth for the marabout to make his mark upon. Someday, Kunta thinks, this cloth will be sewn into the saphie charm of his own firstborn son.