Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 96 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 96 Summary

Chicken George has been out running around and philandering almost every night. This particular morning, he stands outside his and Matilda's cabin with slurred speech and a swagger to his walk. His lies hurt Matilda the most. Chicken George promises that both he and Mingo had simply been chasing loose chickens all night. Matilda knows better. But being the good and honest wife that she is, Matilda tells Chicken George that no matter what he does, she will always be there for him when he comes home. Still, Matilda gives Chicken George a strict warning from the bible about reaping what one sows. Of course, Chicken George has to sleep with the chickens instead of with his wife.

With a renewed sense of duty, Chicken George spends many of the next days being a family man. In fact, he even persuades Tom Lea to let him stay home from fighting the cocks so that he can be present for the birth of his third son. Even though Mingo is beginning to show signs of failing health, he can still accompany his master on limited trips with the chickens. After the little boy is born, Chicken George is so proud that he sits everyone down yet again and tells them all about Kunta Kinte.

While Chicken George and Tom Lea are coming back from their latest cockfighting adventure, news spreads about Nat Turner and the most successful slave revolt in history. All of the blacks accompanying their owners glance at each other with looks of dread. They remember the way their masters acted after the last slave revolt. Nat Turner’s revolt would surely produce a worse result. Tom Lea, fuming with anger, turns back toward George and the buggy.

Sure enough, Tom Lea gallops back home without a word to Chicken George, gathers the slaves together, and (despite George’s protest) destroys all of the slaves’ few meager belongings. Matlida screams as her master ruins the one special wedding present that Chicken George gave her: a grandfather clock. Even Sister Sarah’s medicinal herbs are destroyed. It isn’t until every container is opened and every mattress ripped that Tom Lea is satisfied. After finding no dangerous guns or knives or weapons, Tom Lea struts down to the gamecock area and takes George’s and Mingo’s tools. After threatening to sleep with his shotgun as if expecting George and Mingo to come threatening, Tom Lea gallops back to the big house.