Kunta Kinte is a fictional African slave taken to 18th-century America in the novel and adapted TV series Roots. Based on the character and his experience, Kunta Kinte is also used as a derogatory name for an African person who has recently immigrated to a new place.
Nor does it seem likely that the late “Roots” author Alex Haley would question the idea of putting such a museum here, since his famous ancestor Kunta Kinte was enslaved on the Waller plantation in nearby Spotsylvania County.
Kunta, now 67 years old, is alone and prays to Allah to bring him home in the Gambia. In 1822, Kunta dies of a broken heart. Kunta was a warrior, he was enslaved and travled across the world and lived to start a new family in America. The Kinte dynasty will be asembled for many years.
” Kunta ” is an Arabic word (كُنْتَ), meaning, “you were,” (2nd person, male).
According to Haley, Kunta Kinte was based on one of his ancestors: a Gambian man who was born in 1750, enslaved and taken to America and who died in 1822. Haley said that his account of Kunta’s life in Roots is a mixture of fact and fiction, to an unknown extent.
In Haley’s story, Kinte, who was sold to an American slave owner, resisted both his enslavement and the name “Toby” that his owner imposed on him. After his fourth attempt at escape, the slave catchers gave him a choice: Be castrated, or lose half a foot.
The 13th Amendment, adopted on December 18, 1865, officially abolished slavery, but freed Black peoples’ status in the post-war South remained precarious, and significant challenges awaited during the Reconstruction period.
Trivia. “Chicken” George was portrayed in 1977 television miniseries, Roots, by multi-talented actor, Ben Vereen, Ave Long in 1979’s Roots: The Next Generation, and by British newcomer Rege-Jean Page in the remake. He became the first member of the Kinte family to earn his freedom.
Historical accuracy. Haley called his novel “fiction” and acknowledged most of the dialogue and incidents were fictional. However, he claimed to have traced his family lineage back to Kunta Kinte, an African taken from the village of Juffure in what is now The Gambia.
Once known as James Island, Kunta Kinte Island was a holding ground for captured slaves before they were shipped to America. The island is named for its most famous slave, who was later immortalized in the book (and then mini-series) Roots. American writer Alex Haley wrote Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
Roots concludes with Alex Haley (Laurence Fishburne) getting up from his writing desk to take a spiritual journey to his ancestors. It’s a sweet little curtain call for the cast, set against historical antebellum photographs.
Chicken George is buried nearby in the Bethlehem Cemetery.