Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 87 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 87 Summary

Kizzy’s little George is three now and as confident and spirited as ever. George spends his time determined to help the adults, which often sends them into fits of laughter instead of thanks. George becomes famous for such “helpful” tasks as toting firewood one stick at a time, racking ashes onto the floor in front of the fireplace, and filling up a water bucket so full he can’t lift it. With all the praise everyone gives him, Kizzy decides to keep quiet about George’s new abilities. George’s pride is already starting to show.

One day George asks his mom why he isn’t black like she is. Kizzy gives him a simple explanation: people are just born in different colors. Still, George seems to ask about his color or his non-existent father almost every night. Kizzy becomes angry more about the real answers than at the fact that George is asking. To distract George and quench his curiosity a bit, Kizzy begins telling him stories about his “Gran’pappy,” Kunta Kinte.

Kizzy first explains Kunta Kinte’s story briefly. She tells George that Kunta Kinte came over from Africa in a slave ship bound for Annapolis, Maryland. First, John Waller bought Kunta, but because Kunta ran away four times, slave catchers chopped off half his foot. Finally, William Waller convinced his brother to sell Kunta, which is how Kunta came to live on a Spotsylvania County plantation for what they call a “good” master.

George has a hard time understanding most of the story. He is full of questions about why the slave catchers cut off part of Kunta’s foot. George also asks why slaves run away. After George begins to grasp the true meaning behind the story, his questions get more inquisitive: George begins to ask about Africa. Even though Kizzy sometimes loses patience, she tells her son everything she can about what her father told her. Kizzy tells George about the old songs from Africa that Kunta used to sing while riding in the buggy with her after church. She tells him about the long walks by the fence she took with her father when he would test her on all sorts of African words, like the words for river (“bolongo”) and fiddle (“ko”).

Kizzy finds herself asking George to repeat as many African words and phrases as she can remember. His interest, concentration, and success fill Kizzy with great love for her son.