Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 66 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 66 Summary

It isn’t long before Kunta worries that Bell has some kind of secret that she won’t tell Kunta. Kunta feels as if Bell doesn’t trust him. One day, Kunta tells Bell some things that he overheard Master Waller saying. Specifically, there was a doctor in New Orleans who had a slave for many years. The doctor taught the slave absolutely everything he knew about the medical profession. As soon as the doctor thought his slave had learned enough, the doctor set the slave free. As Bell completes the story herself, Kunta asks how Bell got her information. She replies, “I got my ways.”

Kunta had just promised himself to start withholding the information he hears when Bell approaches Kunta one day after dinner with something serious on her mind. Bell retrieved one of the newspapers under their bed; Kunta had just assumed she enjoyed flipping the pages. Instead, Bell shocks Kunta by telling him that she can read and that Master Waller would sell her immediately if he knew.

Bell tells Kunta that she learned to read when she was little, when the white children on the plantation would play school with her. Bell has gotten a lot of practice over the years reading these newspapers, and although reading still tires her out, she can do it fairly well. Bell reads a few articles to Kunta, who sits there shocked and amazed at his wife. She also shows him the pictures and descriptions of runaway slaves. Bell remembers when one of the descriptions was of Kunta. Bell admits that the story about the New Orleans doctor and his slave was one she had read.

When Kunta expresses concern that Bell will get caught, she tells him a story about a time when she was supposed to be dusting Master Waller’s library. Instead, what Bell was really doing was looking at Waller’s books and reading the titles. Master Waller appeared and caught Bell looking at the books. Since then, the bookcase has been locked. Next, Bell shocks Kunta again by showing that she can write as well. After writing both of their names, though, she throws the paper in the fire because she cannot ever get caught with any writing or she will be sold.

In a few weeks, Kunta decides to wow Bell with his own schooling. One evening, he spells his own name in Arabic in the ashes of the fireplace. Although Kunta usually allows Bell to do all of the talking, the story of Kunta’s education in Juffure spills out of him. He describes everything to Bell, who is interested about Africa for the first time. Bell goes even farther and asks Kunta the African name for everything in their cabin. Kunta’s instruction excites Bell so much that she exclaims, “Lawd have mercy!” Kunta and Bell go to bed that night filled with pride.