Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 61 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 61 Summary

The two men grunt with satisfaction when they figure out that both of them prefer to squat on the floor rather than sit in a chair. Suddenly, the man begins to talk about his upbringing. He is from Ghana, from the Akan tribe. Even though the white people call him Pompey, his real name is Boteng Bediako. Kunta tells Boteng all about Juffure, the Mandinka tribe, and his family. When Boteng hears that Kunta is thirty-seven years old, he wants to give Kunta a piece of advice. Through a story from the land of Ghana, Boteng imparts to Kunta one of the most important things that Kunta is to learn: To survive in the land of the white man takes patience and a hard shell.

Kunta marvels at how this man would be his father’s age, and probably a kintango if not a chief. Boteng asks Kunta whether the reputation of the Mandinka tribe is correct. Boteng has always heard they are great travelers and traders. Kunta agrees and tells Boteng all about the uncles who travel the land. Then Boteng tells Kunta all about where in Africa most slaves are taken and how their different personalities and tribal traits distinguish them. Boteng admits that he mostly talks through his qua-qua drum, and maybe he was talking to Kunta the night they met. Kunta is moved by the thought.

Kunta feels as though he is talking the night away with Omoro himself. Boteng remarks that if they were in Ghana, he would be talking to Kunta while whittling away at a large thorn to make something to give his visitor. Kunta also says that if they were in the Gambia, Kunta would be talking to Boteng while whittling away at a large mango seed to do the same. Suddenly, they shake hands in the African way, showing that the two would meet again not too long in the future.

No other night meant more to Kunta in his entire life. Kunta tells Boteng that he truly wishes for a wonderful mango seed right now to plant so that he could taste that delicious fruit again. Boteng uses the mango seed idea to share one last bit of wisdom with Kunta. In fact, what Boteng tells Kunta shocks him into reality: “You’s young. Seeds you’ve got a-plenty, you jes’ needs de wife to plant ‘em in.”