In the spring of 1750, Kunta Kinte is born in Juffure in The Gambia, Africa. His father is Omoro; his mother is Binta. Kunta learns the Mandinka village’s customs and its religion—Islam. At five years of age, he graduates to the second kafo, donning clothes, attending school, and herding goats. He learns that some people in Juffure are slaves and that toubob—white people—sometimes capture Africans and sell them into slavery.
At ten years of age, he enters the third kafo, when boys receive manhood training, learning how to hunt, to use their wits, and to make war. They study sacred writings—the Qur՚n, the Pentateuch, and the Psalms. The boys then are circumcised and sent back to the village as men. Kunta moves from his mother’s hut into his own. He, his younger brother, Lamin, and some friends go to hunt for gold. He listens to the Council of Elders discussing village business.
One day after sentry duty, Kunta looks for wood for a drum. Some toubob and their black assistants ambush and capture him. He and people from other tribes are shackled in a ship’s hold, where many die. The stench of vomit, urine, feces, and death is overwhelming. Kunta becomes very ill but survives the four-month journey.
Sold to a white man, Kunta cannot understand why other black men do not free him. He runs away but is recaptured by men and dogs. Kunta works in the fields and watches the ways of both toubob and black people in this new land, where tobacco and butchered hogs offend his Muslim nose. Kunta’s master calls him Toby. He secretly learns some toubob words and pretends to obey, but when his leg irons are removed, he again runs away. Again he is captured; again he runs. This time he is shot. He recovers and runs again; his captors cut off half of his foot.
A toubob man of medicine and a black woman, Bell, help Kunta’s foot heal. A man called Fiddler befriends him and begins teaching him English. When Kunta is well enough, he helps the gardener, taking over his duties after the old man becomes ill. The Fiddler tells Kunta he is in Virginia; the old gardener talks about slavery and about the rebellion against the king. The slaves discuss white people’s fear that the English will encourage slaves to fight their masters. The gardener also talks about their owner, whose wife and baby died. Massa Waller bought Kunta from Waller’s brother.
Kunta becomes Waller’s driver, taking the doctor to call on patients, friends, and relatives. At Waller’s parents’ plantation, Kunta meets another African. Kunta realizes that, although keeping his dignity, he is...
(The entire section is 1093 words.)