In the river region of The Gambia in 1750, Omoro Kinte and his wife, Binta, give birth to a son, Kunta. Kunta is kidnapped in 1767 and sold to British slave traders. After arriving in Maryland, Virginia planter John Waller purchases Kunta.
Redcoats attempt to persuade slaves to run away and join the English army. Kunta escapes but slave catchers apprehend him and amputate half of his foot to ensure he never runs off again. John Waller sells Kunta to his younger brother, William.
George becomes an accomplished trainer of gamecocks and earns the nickname of Chicken George. George marries Matilda, a preacher's daughter, and fathers many children. Tom Lea loses a wager with an Englishman and sells George to save his farm.
Chicken George returns to the Lea farm after 20 years. George's son, Tom, nurses a grudge against his father. George and Cyrus join the Memphis Colored Battery. Tom returns home after the war to embark on a new life with his family.