Property or a Human Being?  (

One of man's most ugly practices has impact on every human life; white, black, yellow, brown or a rainbow of colors.

Watch the following clips from Roots: (Life in Gambia)
and (Breaking Kunta)

"Roots" (1977) (TV mini-series) from (

Cast overview, first billed only:
Maya Angelou .... Nyo Boto
Ji-Tu Cumbuka .... Wrestler
Moses Gunn .... Kintango
Thalmus Rasulala .... Omoro (Kunta's father)
Hari Rhodes .... Brima Cesay (as Harry Rhodes)
William Watson .... Gardner
Ren Woods .... Fanta

LeVar Burton .... Kunta Kinte/Toby Reynolds

Edward Asner .... Capt. Thomas Davies
O.J. Simpson .... Kadi Touray
Ralph Waite .... Slater

Louis Gossett Jr. .... Fiddler
Robert Reed .... Dr. William Reynolds
Lorne Greene .... John Reynolds

Lynda Day George .... Mrs. Reynolds


Kintango: Who can tell me if there was a tribal war, and the men of Mandinka had the enemy surrounded on three sides, what should be the next thing done?
Boy: The men of the Mandinka will enclose the circle and surround the enemy.
Kintango: No, the goal of war is not to kill. The goal of war is to win. By surrounding the enemy, you would force him only to fight more desperately. If you surround him on three sides and leave him an escape route, he will leave your land and there will less blood spilled on both sides. For a warrior of the Mandinka, courage is not enough.
Boy: But sir, won't an enemy who escapes alive fight you again?
Kintango: It is impossible to kill an enemy. You may end a man's life, but his son becomes your new enemy. A warrior respects another warrior, even he is his enemy. A warrior kills only to protect his family, or to keep from becoming a slave. We believe not in death, but in life, and there is no object more valuable than a man's life. The way of the Mandinka is not easy, but it is best.

Captain Thomas Davies: I'm a Christian Man and I command a Christian Ship! I will not lead men into sin!

Kunta Kinte: I'm a Mandinka Warrior!
Fiddler: [turns to stable horse] Horse! I hear tell that you ain't a horse at all. I hear tell that you think you a mighty crow! I hear tell that you fly from here 'bouts all the way to Annapolis and back again. Now horse... you look mighty like a horse to me. And you sure SMELLS mighty like a horse. So I'm saying to you, that you... is... a horse! What you think you is don't matter a damn bit.

Kunta Kinte: What's snow fiddler?
Fiddler: Never you mind, boy, never you mind. Let's get on back to home. I got enough trouble teaching you the difference between manure and massa. 'Course there ain't all that much difference when you gets right down to it.

Omoro, Kunta's father: [holding his infant son up to starry sky] Kunta Kinte, behold the only thing greater than yourself!

John Carrington: Uh, did you have a good voyage, Captain?
Captain Thomas Davies: My First Officer is dead, ten seaman and the ship's boy... more than a third of my crew.

Evan Brent: And every step I take, every time my leg twinges on me I recollect who's responsible for all the pluses and minus that I got to live with now! Yeah, I recollect who done it to me... Niggers!

Tom Harvey: Listen to me, Jimmy Brent! Listen to me! And take this message with you to Hell! The last hands to touch you in this Earth... was my BLACK hands!

Kunta Kinte from (
According to research done by Alex Haley, Kunta Kinte was an African from The Gambian town of Juffure. According to Haley family history he was sold into slavery in a town called "Annapolis."

Haley's research identified a slave ship, the Lord Ligonier, which sailed from Gambia River, July 5, 1767, with 140 captured Gambians. It arrived in Annapolis, Maryland on September 29, 1767, with only 98 survivors. Haley believed one of those survivors was a seventeen-year-old Kunta Kinte.

The Africans were sold into slavery on October 7, according to an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette newspaper.

Kinte would have been purchased at the ship or in one of the local inns or restaurants. He was then taken to a farm in Virginia where he continued his American heritage.

Kinte's arrival in Annapolis is symbolic of the slave trade era when millions of African men, woman and children were captured and sent to the New World. They endured the horrors of the "Middle Passage" — the Atlantic crossing in which Africans were packed into the holds of ships for months, many dying en route.

Kinte survived to tell his story — a story that was shared by his descendent Alex Haley in the book Roots.

Roots Notes


1750It is the year of 1750 and a little boy is born to a family that lives in the small village Juffure at the African west coast.  The father Omoro Kinte gives him the name Kunta and takes care of him.  He wants to raise him strict but righteous.  Therefore, Kunta lives an unburdened life which is characterized by the old traditions of his ancestors.  He helps with the harvest and herds the sheep.   He joins his father at a big journey and grows up to a young man. Juffurre is the name of Kunta Kinte's village.

The Kinte family is Muslim.  Eight days pass before the father names the child in this Mandinka Tribe.  The Kintango is the man who instructs the boys on how to become men.  He is the teacher, the leader during this initiation process.  When he is 15 years old, Kunta must wrestle to become a man.   Also, he must  be circumcised.  The foreskin on his foto (penis) must be cut.  Wrestler calls him a warthog because he charges without thinking.  Another task he must fulfill is to catch a bird and return with it.  While doing this, he meets Fanta from a neighbouring tribe. Kadi Touray is the father of Fanta.  As the slavers try to catch blacks, the comment is made that whites smell like wet chickens.  

Below decks, First Mate, Slater, is given permission to be in control of all that takes place below decks.   He  tells Captain Davies that  women take up less space on the ship than the men. Captain Davies opts for the "loose pack" rather than the "tight pack" way of carrying slaves in the hold of the ship.

Kadi Touray is the father of Fanta.  Juffurre is the name of Kunta Kinte's village.

1765At the age of 15 years (15 rains),  Kunta is caught while looking for a log to make a drum.  He is carried off to the coast by four slave hunters.  After several days of torture and hunger, Kunta awakes on a big ship. He is cooped up in the cargo hold of the lower deck. Kunta who is put in chains starts an involuntary journey.  White slave traders carry him away from his African homeland in order to sell him and the members of his tribe in the southern states of the United States of America.   On board the ship "Lord Ligonier" he shows hatred for his white oppressors but at the same time his belief in Islam gives him the will and power to fight for his freedom and develop the inner strength to survive this terrible ordeal.

While on board, the slaves get sick.   They soil themselves, vomit, and   sweat a great deal in the heat of the windowless hold.  The stench is unbearable.  Some slaves did not want to eat, and choose  to starve themselves to death.  As a result, they were beaten and forced to eat.  Others threw themselves overboard.  Many women were raped.  Kunta had a dream that a large white bird swallowed him and Wrestler told him that it was symbolic of what whites were doing to Africans.

After a painful and very long crossing, the slave ship arrives in America. The  Africans are put in cages like cattle.    One way whites fought against the stench was to pour vinegar on a cloth and hold it over their nose.  They are brought to the slave market where African women are referred to as wenches, while African men are referred to as bucks.  Kunta Kinte must experience how his proud tribe is humiliated and bartered away to white farmers. He is branded and sold to land owner, Mr. Reynolds, who lives in Virginia. At the slave market we are told that a black wench 4 months pregnant sells for 20 pounds (£), and learn that tobacco costs 6 £ a hundred weight. Kunta has to have a carbuncle lanced on his back before he can be sold.  The market people talk and one says that blacks “fresh from the trees” work about as hard as a wench 8 months pregnant.   This is where Fiddler appears in the movie.  He helps to bring Kunta into the culture of slave life on the plantation at the Reynolds'  in Spotsylvania, Virginia.  It is Fiddler’s job to “break” (train) Kunta who has been given the English name, Toby .   He does not give up his African name because it is all that is left of his from Africa, and it reminds him of his origin and identity as a person. 

The Ship that carried Kunta to Annapolis, Virginia carried tobacco, hardware, spices, and slaves.  Kunta had a  sack put over his head when he was kidnapped while looking for a log to make a drum.  Before the kidnapping, he was going through  an initiation to prove himself a man. 

The white sailors considered owning blacks the “natural order of things.”  Mr. Slater, the first mate, said that the whites were saving the blacks with Christianity and saving them from cannibals.  He said they had no proper language, just grunts and groans.   One hundred and seventy slaves were on the ship with Kunta.  The ship's captain is Davies and Mr. Gardner is the man who catches the blacks on the coast for the captain to place aboard the Lord Ligonier. 

On the Reynolds' plantation there is an overseer named Mr. Ames.  He was an indentured servant, that is, has a contract that states that he must work for a certain number of years in order to pay off a debt. He is responsible for "breaking in" the slaves.  In the big house, (plantation owner’s house), the whites talk about how a thinking slave will become unhappy.  For this and to prevent them from organizing a revolt, slaves are forbidden to read or write. 

Master Reynolds patronizes Kunta by patting him on the head and telling him to be a “good nigger.”  Fiddler says, when referring to how hard the slaves work: “White folks live by it, and niggers die by it.”


  1. Describe some of the values, traditions, and beliefs that were part of Gambian life. Give examples from the movie.
  2. Why was slavery so lucrative in the 17th to 19th centuries (1600's - 1800's)? Explain.
  3. How did the Africans aboard the Lord Ligonier show their objection to captivity? Explain.
  4. What conflict does Captain Davies face and how does he resolve it?
  5. What is the attitude of the First Mate, Slater,  to the Africans and the institution of slavery? Explain.
  6. Why do some Africans take part in the slave trade, that is, capture fellow Africans and turn them over to White slave traders? Explain.



1767 Advertisement


Written Document Analysis Worksheet




___ Newspaper
___ Letter
___ Patent
___ Memorandum


___ Map
___ Telegram
___ Press release
___ Report


___ Advertisement
___ Congressional record
___ Census report
___ Other





___ Interesting letterhead
___ Handwritten
___ Typed
___ Seals


___ Notations
___ "RECEIVED" stamp
___ Other














DOCUMENT INFORMATION (There are many possible ways to answer A-E.)

A. List three things the author said that you think are important:

B. Why do you think this document was written?

C. What evidence in the document helps you know why it was written? Quote from the document.

D. List two things the document tells you about life in the United States at the time it was written:

E. Write a question to the author that is left unanswered by the document:

Designed and developed by the
Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408.

ACS11                 Roots Video Quiz           Name:                                    


1.                  From where was Kunta Kinte?

A)    Guinea

B)    Ghana

C)    Gambia


2.                  Kunta Kinte was named after

A)    6 days

B)    8 days

C)    10 days


3.                  Kunta Kinte’s father’s name was

A)    Omoro

B)    Omay

C)    Omari


4.                  Kunta Kinte’s mother’s name was

A)    Binta

B)    Banta

C)    Benta


5.                  Kunta Kinte’s religion was

A)    Tribal

B)    Islam

C)    Christian


6.                  Kunta Kinte went to Manhood Training when he was

A)    14 years old

B)    15 years old

C)    16 years old


7.                  In Manhood Training, one learns to be a

A)    warrior

B)    man

C)    both of the above


8.                  Kunta Kinte first saw a White man when he was

A)    looking for a log to make a drum

B)    trying to capture a live bird

C)    hunting for antelope


9.                  If a boy failed Manhood Training, he

A)    would be treated like a child and could never marry

B)    had to repeat the training for 12 months

C)    was sent away from the village and could never return


10.              Kunta Kinte was captured and enslaved when he was

A)    alone and asleep in his hut

B)    on his own searching for wood for a drum

C)    herding goats


11.              Kunta Kinte’s ethnic group was

A)    Fulani

B)    Mandinka

C)    Mende


12.              Kunta Kinte was kidnapped in

A)    1775

B)    1767

C)    1777


13.              The ship that brought Kunta Kinte to Annapolis was the

A)    Lord Ligonier

B)    Lord Legionaire

C)    Le Amistad


14.              Kunta Kinte was auctioned and sold to

A)    John Reynolds

B)    William Waller

C)    Thomas Johnson


15.              Kunta Kinte was given the English name

A)    Thomas

B)    Tobin

C)    Toby


16.              Kunta Kinte was trained as a slave by

A)    Fiddles

B)    Fiddler

C)    Fido


17.              Kunta Kinte never learns to speak English.

A)    True

B)    False


18.              On the slave ship to Annapolis, the Africans

A)    accepted their fate

B)    tried to revolt

C)    neither of the above


19.              Early in Roots, we learn that most Whites think Blacks are

A)    able to learn basic reading and writing

B)    intelligent but must be made to think that they are not equal to Whites

C)    of inferior intelligence and unable to be educated


20.              Kunta Kinte was whipped because

A)    he ran away from the plantation

B)    he refused to accept his new name

C)    both of the above


Broadsides (posters advertising slave sales)

To Be Sold
A likely NEGRO MAN
About twenty-two years old, has had the small
pox and measles.  Any family intending to
settle in Nova Scotia, could not meet with one to an-
swer their purpose better, with a warranted title.
Enquire at No. 210, Queen Street

(This ad was 6.8cm by 2.9cm, as printed in the original newspaper.)

 Slave for sale, July 1783