Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 22 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 22 Summary

Kunta’s graduation day has arrived. He has studied with the arafang now for quite a few years, and it is time to test his knowledge in front of the entire village of Juffare. Kunta answers proudly when asked about the occupation of his ancestors: blacksmiths. There are questions about math and questions about writing and questions about religion. Kunta Kinte answers well in whatever he is asked. Every correct answer to a question causes excitement and jubilation to erupt from the crowd. Kunta even demonstrates that he can both read and write Arabic (which he admits is quite a difficult task). Most importantly, Kunta shows that he has memorized large sections of the Koran. It isn’t long before the graduation feast begins: the boys are ready for their manhood training (which will begin at the end of the next harvest festival).

The next morning Omoro gives Kunta a present: one male goat and one female goat. Kunta will be able to begin his own herd. Another goat is given away as well: this one to the arafang as a thank you gift for their firstborn son’s education.

Kunta and his friends approach the harvest season with anxiety instead of the usual joy. They know their manhood training is approaching. Fear grips them. They cannot even enjoy the festival. The Mandinka men go and come secretly from the village, speaking in whispers. There is a rumor that the jujuo, the village where manhood training takes place, is in disrepair. There is even more fear when the boys see their mothers taking their head measurements. Kunta Kinte knows that manhood training begins with a white sack put over the head of each young man.

It was the night before the last day of the festival (and not a time when Kunta would expect) that Omoro forces the hood upon Kunta and has him sit still on a stool in his own hut for a day or more. He sits there with only his thoughts and fears. When the scary kankurang dancers with their fearful, masked faces grab him from the hut he is actually glad to be hooded. The villagers scream and kick at Kunta. Then other boys of his age have the same thing done to them until they are all tied together and made to march, still hooded, to the beat of a drum. Kunta has never been happier to have a hood over his head. If it were removed, everyone could see the terror on his face. Suddenly, he feels the fear of the boys in front of him and behind him. This makes him feel better.

Kunta knows he is leaving his boyhood behind. He will return to the village of Juffare, but when he does return, Kunta Kinte will be a man.