Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 88 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 88 Summary

George turns six, and Tom Lea makes George work in the fields. George “helps” as well as he helped with bucket-filling. Still, George always smiles and lifts the others' moods with his “characteristic good spirits.” George is so independent and self-reliant for his age that Kizzy can’t help but feel pride for him.

George amuses Kizzy at night telling stories about wildlife and singing slave spirituals. He also amuses himself whittling or drawing. Kizzy is scared George might learn to write. She keeps her solemn vow never to write again.

Kizzy misses news she would hear after Kunta’s buggy rides. Because Lea drives himself and the field hands stay in the fields, the slaves know nothing about what is going on. The Lea plantation is isolated completely.

Luckily, the Leas do like to entertain guests, mostly to prove they aren’t “poor white crackers” anymore. After these visits, Miss Malizy relays information she overhears. One dinner guest talked about the War of 1812. This sparks little George to ask Kizzy about war. Little by little, news trickles. In 1814, George does a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” for slave row.

George is growing up to be a true entertainer. His most requested act is his impression of his master. George can do a good, mocking impression of anyone with only a little observation beforehand. This particular skill brings extra cheer to slave row.

About this time, George sees Mingo, Lea’s cock-fighting slave, for the first time. A funny impression immediately ensues. One day, Lea sees George chasing a rat and inquires what good George is doing. George confidently replies that he “preaches.” Amused, Lea listens as George does some mock-preaching and has the best laugh he has had in years. Lea asks George to mock-preach for his next dinner guests, amid the news of Cherokee Indians and Davy Crockett.

In 1818 some tension among the field hands erupts when Sister Sarah comments on sending free blacks back to Africa. She says she would never go because the blacks are all romping “up in trees wid monkeys.” Deeply insulted, Kizzy stops her. Even George reacts negatively to the disrespect of his grandfather, and he tells Kizzy he plans to tell his children about Kunta Kinte.

Tom Lea likes George so much he gives him extra liberties like inspecting Lea’s beloved game cocks. Soon Lea lets George help Mingo feed them. Sister Sarah, telling fortunes, predicts George will be a singular person, always getting into something new.