Saturday, November 27, 2010

Who is Chicken George?

When I moved my blog a couple of years ago I wasn't able to get all of my old posts moved over, so from time to time I like to grab a post and bring it over. I've been asked about this post a couple of times recently so it seemed a good one to move.
originally posted Friday, 30 November 2007

chicken george


A couple of days ago I shared with you the gravestone memorial of Chicken George and it seems there are some questions on who he was. You ask questions and I try to answer so, you can find the full story by reading (or watching) Alex Haley’s Roots.
But to get directly to Chicken George and how he came by his name I snagged the following from Wikipedia:



When George is born, Kizzy, who is only 17, is horrified to see that his skin is light-colored, not ebony black like her own. Her shame is intense. The other slaves at the Lea plantation advise her to forget about the father, although Master Lea continues to visit her frequently at night. The continual abuse drives Kizzy to depression. But when Master Lea finally leaves her alone two years later, Kizzy bonds to the other slaves and tends to her son as lovingly as she would a child born to her out of love rather than rape.
George is raised like a typical field hand. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging around the gamecock pen and Uncle Mingo, the gamecock raiser, who brings in a tidy sum for Master Lea each year in cockfighting revenues. George instantly takes an attraction to the fighting roosters because of their noble stature. Later he becomes apprenticed to Uncle Mingo and proves himself a quick learner in feeding, capturing, cleaning, and fighting gamecocks, earning himself the nickname, "Chicken George."
After George starts full-time rooster duty, there is a noticeable improvement in Master Lea’s winnings. Chicken George attends his first cockfight at the age of 15. As the years pass, he continues to go to tournaments and backyard fights, wins money, and saves it in order to buy freedom for himself and his family. He and Master Lea become very close. Much of the time, Master Lea treats Chicken George like a partner, not as a slave, thanks to the latter's skill with the gamecocks.
At the age of 18, Chicken George encourages Master to buy a slave girl named Matilda so George can marry her. Matilda gives birth to a large family of eight children named Virgil, Ashford, George, Tom, Lewis, James, Mary and Kizzy. Master Lea loses a bet with an English cockfighter, Sir C. Eric Russell, who has him pay by giving him Chicken George. After Chicken George is sent away Matilda and her children are sold to a kind couple, the Murrays, to pay Master Lea's debts.
In the meantime, Chicken George's third son, Tom, a blacksmith, marries a half-Native American slave girl named Irene Holt. The youngest of their eight children is Cynthia, Alex Haley's grandmother.
Bolstered by Master Lea's promise that he will receive his freedom when he returns, Chicken George comes back and gets his certificate of freedom from Master Lea. Though refusing at first, Master Lea is tricked into drinking before George makes a daring move and steals the paper out of Master Lea's safe. Kizzy and one of their old slave friends are dead by the time he returns. Chicken George finds his family, but he must escape to Canada to preserve his freedom. After the American Civil War, Chicken George and his family are reunited and they move to Tennessee to start a new life as free men and women, continuing to share the stories that their great-ancestor Kunta Kinte had his daughter commit to memory so many years before.

chicken george


So that explains why I found this memorial in Tennessee. In case you can’t read what it says, “Here they lie from ‘Chicken George’, grandson of the African Kunta Kinte and on down the line to Kunta Kinte’s great-great-great-granddaughter, our mother, Bertha.”
Bertha was Alex Haley’s mother. When you look at the photo below you see the fenced in area. I walked in the fence and looked at the stones. The stone shown above is centered outside the fence and you can easily read it then look up and read all the stones inside the fence. Looking inside the fence in the photo below, Chicken George is on the far right and Bertha on the far left.


chicken george

14 comments:

  1. What an amazing gravesite to find! Did you find it by accident? Very memorable... I have read Roots and have spent many hours digging into my geneaolgy so I know on more than one level what a very special place that is. Very cool!

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  2. I've read Roots and watch the serials on tv years ago, and I still remembered the story till today. This is such a special and historic sight.

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  3. Great post and very cool that you got to visit that grave site.

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  4. You find the most interesting things on your little geocaching trips! This is really interesting!

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  5. how cool you stumbled across such an important grave site. i've often thought of reading the book Roots but haven't yet. however, i remember watching the movie. it was excellent. your finding certainly brings the book to life.

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  6. How cool is this!! I love finding the old historical sites. One of my favorite graves ever is the grave of Mother Goose in Boston.

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  7. I think he and Kizzie (sp?) were my favorite from Roots, and I liked Ben Vereen's portrayal of him in the movie. I really enjoyed reading this and seeing these pictures.

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  8. Roots was such a big deal way back when. Thanks for sharing the graveyard and the story again!

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  9. An acquaintance recently referred to me as " Chicken George" and it was only thru your blog that I see what a compliment this nick name is to bestow on one... Thanks for taking the time...

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  10. Hi my name is Elizio and i live in england wen i was a child, and in this coutry, I learned the little English that I read and write today with 43 ​​years of age. My father's grandmother was a slave in Brazil, and my father was always very proud of their African origins. Although it may look different or extranho, here in Brazil is very difficult to rescue the black origins, that because our white colonizers, the Portuguese, was not as organized as the British in their notes. I watched the first series Roots in 1979 at age 10. I read the book at 13 and never forget the excitement in the eyes of my father to watch the series. I love your writing and I hope you'll understand my English, learned as a child and, like the series, kept me for effort, so proud of my father.

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  11. I'm a descendant of the Lea plantation slaves in Caswell County, NC. Alex Haley interviewed my older relatives as part of his research for Roots. I've traced my family back to the mid 1850s. but of course records are hard to come by before then. Thanks for sharing this.

    My family still resides near Caswell County, in an area known as Pleasant Grove. A few miles away there are white families of Leas who I'm sure are our distant cousins. I'd love to meet them and pick their brains about our ancestry.

    Of course, something tells me they won't take well to me showing up for dinner ;-)

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  12. Watching roots as we speak!! One powerful movie. I remember watching for the first time in the late 70's. I was about 9 or 10. How does one take the steps to find ur roots?

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  13. I just loved looking at Roots I watch it over and over again!

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