- Date of Birth:
- January 1, 1900
Kunta Kinte (born 1750 in Juffure, Gambia, West Africa) was a native African, allegedly enslaved and taken to America in the late 1700s. Kunta’s life was fictionalized in the novel, Roots: The Sage of an American Family, by author Alex Haley. According to Roots, Kunta was searching for wood in 1767 when he was taken captive by slavers. He survived the Middle Passage to North America, where he was sold to a Virginia plantation owner, who renamed him Toby. Kunta rejected his name and attempted to escape four times. After being caught on his final escape attempt, he was given a choice: be castrated or have his right foot cut off. He chose amputation. Kunta married fellow slave, Bell Waller, and they had a daughter, Kizzy. Kunta’s story was shared with the world when Alex’s story, Roots, was turned into a television miniseries in 1976. Kunta was played by LeVar Burton.
Best Known For:
Kunta Kinte is best known as a character in Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
Alex claims Kunta was based on one of his ancestors. Alex gained his knowledge of Kunta from his family’s oral tradition and a man named Kebba Kanga Fofana. Kebba claimed to be a West African storyteller, and said that Kunta’s family was blacksmiths. Researchers later challenged Kebba’s account on its accuracy. American author Harold Courlander sued Alex, claiming 81 passages of Roots was taken from his novel, The African. The two settled out of court, but Alex issued a public statement saying Harold’s book had been the source.