Another generation has seen freedom slip through not only Kizzy’s grasp as well as her son’s in Part 3 of Roots.
Not much has changed when we catch up with Kizzy 10 years later. She’s still being raped on fairly regular basis by her master Tom Lea while raising their son, George, as a single mother.
Meanwhile, George is in the chicken coop looking at the birds. When an older slave named Mingo catches him, he runs the boy off and tells Tom about the incident. This gives Tom the idea to bring George along for an upcoming cock fight.
On the way over to the fight, Tom opens up about how made himself a small fortune, explaining that he built his plantation from his fight winnings.
Back at the plantation, we find that Kizzy is teaching the master’s wife, Patricia, how to read even though it is illegal for slaves to read. Patricia hopes that knowing how to read will help her to be accepted by some of the wealthier women in town so that she and Tom can move in more prestigious circles.
Kizzy advises her to talk about superficial things and gossip, reasoning, “The more you talk about nothing, the smarter them ladies think you be.”
When Tom and George get home, Tom reveals that he’s decided to add George to his gamecock crew. He proposes that George move down near the chicken coop with Mingo, and Kizzy immediately rejects the idea. Patricia tries to convince him to hold off on the move, but he dismisses her by shouting that she doesn’t know anything about kids because she can’t have them.
We jump ahead 12 years in the story and Chicken George is going to church with Tom and his wife. More accurately, he’s escorting them to White church while he attends Black church outside.
The juxtaposition between the types of worship cannot be missed; the White people are very reserved during their service inside the sanctury, but the Black people gathered out by the water are listening to a minister passionately preach the word of God.
George wasn’t at church to worship, though, and he spends service keeping up trouble in the church’s backyard mocking the preacher. His act is cut short by the preacher’s daughter, Matilda, who he really came to see, and he immediately drops the act to be a little more suave. His charms seem to be working on Matilda and he steals a kiss in front of her father before running off while proclaiming his love for her.
Although the Leas are there to get closer to God, Tom’s true motivation is to get in good with the elite of his community. And they are having none of it. They don’t like him because he’s Irish and poor (relatively speaking). That doesn’t keep him from trying to rub elbows with them at every given opportunity. It seems that even White people like Tom face discrimination within their community.
Another afternoon finds Tom, Mingo, and George at yet another cock fight. Tom is hoping to win big at this match because his plantation has seen better days. Tom is running through money like its water and his property has taken a huge hit because of his spending habits. These desperate times have afforded George the opportunity to show off his training skills at long last.
Before his first match, George speaks with a free man named Marcellus and finds out that it is possible for a slave to buy his own freedom, which gives George the idea to do the same. Since George won a huge pot for Tom, he got a bigger cut of the winnings, which he uses as the seed money to start his own freedom fund.
Tom was in great spirits following the fight, and his mood was only boosted by the fact that he got invited to a fancy Easter picnic by one of the well-to-do. Finally, it seems like Tom’s social climbing ambitions were paying off.
It wasn’t the enchanted party Tom had envisioned, though, as the rest of the guests at the event weren’t thrilled to be breaking bread with an Irish man. Tom even got into a nasty brawl amongst the linens with one of the other men, which led to a duel where Tom was run through with a sword.
Tom called on George to act as his second during the death match, and he pushed his master to fight through the pain and win. Afterall, if Tom dies, George would have a much harder time earning his own freedom.
While Tom is healing up, George is right by his side, watching to make sure that he gets better. During a private conversation–where Tom again talks about pulling himself up by his bootstraps–George lets Tom know that he plans to buy his own freedom. It’s something that Tom agrees to, promising that he’ll write George his freedom papers only when the money is right.
And before he passes out again, Tom implies that he is George’s father. That’s news to George, who has never known his father, considering Tom has lied to him his entire life about who his father is.
Once Tom is well, he sits on the porch to watch George marry Matilda. Just like Kunta’s wedding it was a joyous occasion, and George’s free friend, Marcellus, attended the celebration, where it became clear that he and Kizzy were falling in love. Consumed with jealousy, Tom makes George promise him that he will name one of his sons Tom when he and Matilda do have a boy
Marcellus loved Kizzy so much that he spent tons of time on the plantation just to be near her. When Tom barges in on one of their intimate moments, the free man stands up in all of his nude, just-got-some-lovin’ glory and tells Tom that he plans to buy Kizzy’s freedom.
The night before she’s going to leave with her man, Tom comes into the kitchen to throw a fit that she’s leaving the plantation. He insists that he’s been good to Kizzy because he never beat her (as if that is something to brag about), and Kizzy responds by holding a knife to his throat as she explains why she’s going to stay. She’d rather die than leave her son and his family behind in captivity–especially with a master like Tom.
The next morning, Kizzy lets go of the only man she’s ever loved in decades go so that she can stay behind on Lea’s plantation so that she can protect her family. In the heart-wrenching scene, viewers realize that she has given up not just on a happy relationship but also her freedom, making the emotional pain that much worse.
Sometime later, the Tom, George, and Mingo arrive at a cock fight only to be turned away as panicked White men run around in fear with reports that a slave named Nat Turner has started a brutal rebellion. Neither he, nor his followers, are taking any prisoners and word of the slaughter has White people shook.
As Tom is trying to make sense of the news, Mingo attempts to stop two random men ransacking their cart. He’s knocked out by getting beaten with a rifle, but Tom is so worried about his wife and property that he has George pack the injured man into the back of the cart and refuses to stop for help.
Tom forces George to chain himself to the wagon after another White man they meet on the road suggests that the rebellion is a fever that can be caught by any Black person–even the ones that masters trust. Meanwhile, Mingo is continuing to bleed out in the back of the cart, and Tom ignores George’s pleas to get him to a doctor for medical treatment.
The journey back to Lea plantation has severly soured George on Tom. When they arrive, the find that the slave quarters are on fire; Tom assumes that the slaves were were responsible for the disaster they came home to. The plantation was actually burnt down by a gang of White men scared at news of Nat Turner’s rebellion.
Mingo doesn’t survive much longer once they arrive back at Lea Farm, and George snapped once he dies. Determined to kill Tom, George tries storming the house, but Kizzy is able to talk him down.
Years later, George is still mad at Tom, but he names his second son Tom to make good on his promise to his master/father. That still doesn’t mean he has to like Tom, who is still fighting chicken fighting for. They head off for a huge county fair in South Carolina, which promises big rewards for cock fighting. Naturally, Tom couldn’t resist the prospect of winning so much money, and it would be the last time that George sees his family (including a brand new baby) for years.
Once at the big match, Tom wagers $10,000 on a cock fight, promising George that he will draft his freedom papers if he can win. In a close battle, George wins not only the huge pot, but also his freedom. Tom hands him his freedom papers, and George gratefully takes his first relieved breaths as a liberated man.
Unfortunately, his master makes a $20,000 bet against the person he just fought, and falls prey to a major hustle. Just like that, he’s out $20K and he is ruined. He’s lost everything. The farm, his slaves, his crops. Everything.
His opponent decides to call it even if Tom is willing to give him George. Without a second thought, Tom takes his freedom papers back and allows George to be carted away–this time to England. An entire ocean away from his mother, wife, and five children.
Come back tomorrow for our recap of the Roots miniseries finale.