Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Through the eyes of young Kunta, readers see a village of round thatched huts surrounded by enclosing walls, pierced by the village gates, as well as the traveler’s tree, at which travelers are greeted by village children; fields on which men grow groundnuts and women grow rice; and the forest in which boys take goats to browse. Well removed from the main village of Juffure is the manhood-training village to which the boys on the threshold of manhood are taken to learn the skills and secrets of men.
In Haley’s novel, Juffure is a place rich in the history of a culture that knows its heritage and has reason to be proud of it. It is a place where each person is known to everyone else, where every action is rich with meaning and tradition, a place where Kunta belongs. However, Kunta does not remain there long, as one day he is ambushed while chopping wood in the forest and sold to slavers.
*Lord Ligonier. Slave ship on which Kunta Kinte is transported to North America. In an effort to understand what Kunta and the other transportees suffered, Haley booked passage on a modern freighter and slept on a bare plank shelf in the hold each night of the journey. However, his experience only approximated the horrifying conditions experienced by enslaved Africans, chained amid their own filth in the hold of a wooden sailing ship.
*Spotsylvania. Virginia county that is the location of the two plantations on which Kunta Kinte is held as a slave after his arrival in America. On the first, owned by John Waller, the regimen is brutish and conditions harsh. Its slaves live in tumbledown shacks, barely sufficient to shelter them from the elements. Beatings are regular and violent. Kunta repeatedly tries to escape, but each time is tracked down and subjected to even harsher treatment. The plantation of Dr. William Waller, a relative of John, is somewhat more humane, although the physician still regards his slaves as tools of production, not as persons. The slaves live in clean, whitewashed cabins and are treated with gentle firmness instead of violence, but Waller is always ready to sell troublemakers to plantations with harsher conditions and tells his slaves this to keep them in line.
*Caswell. North Carolina county that is home of the gamecock-fighter to whom Kunta’s daughter Kizzy is sold. After the high-class respectability of Dr. Waller’s plantation, the poor-white brutality of Tom Lea comes as a shock. His fortune is based upon gambling on cockfights, and he retains the crude habits of his impoverished upbringing. He forces himself upon Kizzy, and as a result she bears a son, whom Massa Tom names George. The lad proves to have such talent with the fighting birds that he gains the sobriquet of “Chicken George” and is ultimately given his freedom. That grant does not extend to his wife and children, who remain in bondage until the Emancipation Proclamation during the American Civil War.
*Henning. Tennessee town in which George and his family settle as free blacks after the Civil War. It is a community strictly divided by race, where the former masters of one branch of the family are shunned by the other white people for being too friendly to their former property. Nevertheless, it is a place where George’s family can establish a footing as tradesmen and even own a lumber business. It is also the place in which author Alex Haley would be born, where he would hear the stories about his family’s past that would ultimately lead him to search for the truth behind the fragmented oral traditions.