Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 90 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 90 Summary

When George visits slave row on Sundays now, he struts like a chicken himself. Tom Lea has been telling everyone who will listen that he is apprenticing George, a “natural born” cockfighter. The news from outside the plantation now has to do with new immigrants coming to the United States. Specifically, these immigrants are taking lots of jobs that would have otherwise gone to free blacks. George is amazed and admits that he would never know about any of this stuff unless a chicken told him.

Another reason for George’s frequent Sunday visits is that he longs for Miss Malizy’s good food from the kitchen (as Mingo is not much of a cook). Still, it isn’t long before George gets restless and hightails it back to the chicken coops. George’s afternoons are spent catching choice grasshoppers and other bugs for the birds to eat.

Tom Lea and Mingo are amazed at George when they come upon a cock that they feel cannot be tamed enough to be handled in the cockfights. George has a special way with chickens to calm them down when it’s time. It is truly a natural gift. Still, both Mingo and Tom are continually teaching George. Only a cock trained to physical perfection can be used in the ring. In fact, one good cock can be the difference between wealth and poverty. A long time ago, Tom Lea had won a tiny amount of money in the lottery and bought one cock with that money. The rest is history.

George admits that his favorite fights are when Lea’s birds quickly kill their opponents with no injuries to leave behind. However, his biggest thrill is when two fighting cocks were totally exhausted and George’s bird would gather one last ounce of strength to move in for the kill. When George first began this job, he didn’t understand Mingo’s connection with the old catchcocks; however, now George realizes how each catchcock has a story behind his former greatness.

George is starting to surpass both Mingo and Tom Lea in cockfighting knowhow and ability. There is one thing that George can’t seem to curtail about himself, though. George can’t seem to keep from getting emotional when one of his birds died in the ring.

George does have a new hobby now, however: philandering. Because George always returns faithfully to his chickens the next day, neither Mingo nor Tom Lea has much of a problem with George’s wanderings. Mingo remembers the time when he was the young one hitting on the ladies. George is shocked to have so much in common with his cockfighting idol.