Alexander Murray Palmer Haley (August 11, 1921 – February 10, 1992) was an American writer and the author of the 1976 book Roots: The Saga of an American Family. ABC adapted the book as a television miniseries of the same name and aired it in 1977 to a record-breaking audience of 130 million viewers. In the United States, the book and miniseries raised the public awareness of African American history and inspired a broad interest in genealogy and family history.
He was working on a second family history novel at his death. Haley had requested that David Stevens, a screenwriter, complete it; the book was published as Queen: The Story of an American Family. It was adapted as a film, Alex Haley's Queen, released in 1992.
Haley during his tenure in the U.S. Coast Guard
|Born||Alexander Murray Palmer Haley|
August 11, 1921
Ithaca, New York, United States
|Died||February 10, 1992 (aged 70)|
Seattle, Washington, United States
|Alma mater||Alcorn State University|
Elizabeth City State College
|Spouse||Nannie Branch (1941–1964)|
Juliette Collins (1964–1972)
Myra Lewis (1977–1992) (his death)
|Service/||United States Coast Guard|
|Years of service||1939–1959|
|Rank||Chief Petty Officer|
Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, on August 11, 1921, and was the oldest of three brothers (the other two being George and Julius) and a half-sister (from his father's second marriage). Haley lived with his family in Henning, Tennessee, before returning to Ithaca with his family when he was five years old. Haley's father was Simon Haley, a professor of agriculture at Alabama A&M University, and his mother was Bertha George Haley (née Palmer), who had grown up in Henning. The family had African American, Mandinka, Cherokee, Scottish, and Scottish-Irish roots. The younger Haley always spoke proudly of his father and the obstacles of racism he had overcome.
Like his father, Alex Haley was enrolled at age 15 in Alcorn State University, a historically black college in Mississippi and, a year later, enrolled at Elizabeth City State College, also historically black, in North Carolina. The following year he returned to his father and stepmother to tell them he had withdrawn from college. His father felt that Alex needed discipline and growth, and convinced him to enlist in the military when he turned 18. On May 24, 1939, Alex Haley began what became a 20-year career in the United States Coast Guard.
Haley enlisted as a mess attendant. Later he was promoted to the rate of petty officer third-class in the rating of steward, one of the few ratings open to African Americans at that time. It was during his service in the Pacific theater of operations that Haley taught himself the craft of writing stories. During his enlistment other sailors often paid him to write love letters to their girlfriends. He said that the greatest enemy he and his crew faced during their long voyages was not the Japanese forces but rather boredom.
After World War II, Haley petitioned the U.S. Coast Guard to allow him to transfer into the field of journalism. By 1949 he had become a petty officer first-class in the rating of journalist. He later advanced to chief petty officer and held this rank until his retirement from the Coast Guard in 1959. He was the first chief journalist in the Coast Guard, the rating having been expressly created for him in recognition of his literary ability.
Haley's awards and decorations from the Coast Guard include the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal (with 1 silver and 1 bronze service star), American Defense Service Medal (with "Sea" clasp), American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and the Coast Guard Expert Marksmanship Medal. Further, the Republic of Korea awarded him the War Service Medal 10 years after he died.
After retiring from the U.S. Coast Guard, Haley began another phase of his journalism career. He eventually became a senior editor for Reader's Digest magazine. Haley wrote an article for the magazine about his brother George's struggles to succeed as one of the first African-American students at a Southern law school.
Haley conducted the first interview for Playboy magazine. Haley elicited candid comments from jazz musician Miles Davis about his thoughts and feelings on racism in an interview he had started, but not finished, for Show Business Illustrated, another magazine created by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner that folded in early 1962. Haley completed the interview and it appeared in Playboy's September 1962 issue. That interview set the tone for what became a significant feature of the magazine. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Playboy Interview with Haley was the longest he ever granted to any publication.
Throughout the 1960s Haley was responsible for some of the magazine's most notable interviews, including one with George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party. He agreed to meet with Haley only after gaining assurance from the writer that he was not Jewish. Haley remained professional during the interview, although Rockwell kept a handgun on the table throughout it. (The interview was recreated in Roots: The Next Generations, with James Earl Jones as Haley and Marlon Brando as Rockwell.) Haley also interviewed Muhammad Ali, who spoke about changing his name from Cassius Clay. Other interviews include Jack Ruby's defense attorney Melvin Belli, entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., football player Jim Brown, TV host Johnny Carson, and music producer Quincy Jones.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, published in 1965, was Haley's first book. It describes the trajectory of Malcolm X's life from street criminal to national spokesman for the Nation of Islam to his conversion to Sunni Islam. It also outlines Malcolm X's philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. Haley wrote an epilogue to the book summarizing the end of Malcolm X's life, including his assassination in New York's Audubon Ballroom.
Haley ghostwrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X based on more than 50 in-depth interviews he conducted with Malcolm X between 1963 and Malcolm X's February 1965 assassination. The two men had first met in 1960 when Haley wrote an article about the Nation of Islam for Reader's Digest. They met again when Haley interviewed Malcolm X for Playboy.
The first interviews for the autobiography frustrated Haley. Rather than discussing his own life, Malcolm X spoke about Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam; he became angry about Haley's reminders that the book was supposed to be about Malcolm X. After several meetings, Haley asked Malcolm X to tell him something about his mother. That question drew Malcolm X into recounting his life story.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X has been a consistent best-seller since its 1965 publication. The New York Times reported that six million copies of the book had sold by 1977. In 1998 TIME magazine ranked The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of the 10 most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century.
In 1976 Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a novel based on his family's history, going back to slavery days. It started with the story of Kunta Kinte, who was kidnapped in the Gambia in 1767 and transported to the Province of Maryland to be sold as a slave. Haley claimed to be a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte, and his work on the novel involved twelve years of research, intercontinental travel, and writing. He went to the village of Juffure, where Kunta Kinte grew up and listened to a tribal historian (griot) tell the story of Kinte's capture. Haley also traced the records of the ship, The Lord Ligonier, which he said carried his ancestor to the Americas.
Haley has stated that the most emotional moment of his life occurred on September 29, 1967, when he stood at the site in Annapolis, Maryland, where his ancestor had arrived from Africa in chains exactly 200 years before. A memorial depicting Haley reading a story to young children gathered at his feet has since been erected in the center of Annapolis.
Roots was eventually published in 37 languages. Haley won a special Pulitzer Prize for the work in 1977. The same year, Roots was adapted as a popular television miniseries of the same name by ABC. The serial reached a record-breaking 130 million viewers. Roots emphasized that African Americans have a long history and that not all of that history is necessarily lost, as many believed. Its popularity also sparked a greatly increased public interest in genealogy.
In 1979 ABC aired the sequel miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations, which continued the story of Kunta Kinte's descendants. It concluded with Haley's travel to Juffure. Haley was portrayed at different ages by Kristoff St. John, The Jeffersons actor Damon Evans, and Tony Award winner James Earl Jones. In 2016, History aired a remake of the original miniseries. Haley appeared briefly, portrayed by Tony Award winner Laurence Fishburne.
Haley was briefly a "writer in residence" at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, where he began work on Roots. He enjoyed spending time at a local bistro called the Savoy in nearby Rome, where he would sometimes pass the time listening to the piano player. Today, there is a special table in honor of Haley at the Savoy, and a painting of Haley writing Roots on a yellow legal tablet.
Roots faced two lawsuits that charged plagiarism and copyright infringement. The lawsuit brought by Margaret Walker was dismissed, but Harold Courlander's suit was successful. Courlander's novel The African describes an African boy who is captured by slave traders, follows him across the Atlantic on a slave ship, and describes his attempts to hold on to his African traditions on a plantation in America. Haley admitted that some passages from The African had made it into Roots, settling the case out of court in 1978 and paying Courlander $650,000.
Genealogists have also disputed Haley's research and conclusions in Roots. The Gambian griot turned out not to be a real griot, and the story of Kunta Kinte appears to have been a case of circular reporting, in which Haley's own words were repeated back to him. None of the written records in Virginia and North Carolina line up with the Roots story until after the Civil War. Some elements of Haley's family story can be found in the written records, but the most likely genealogy would be different from the one described in Roots.
Haley and his work have been excluded from the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, despite his status as the United States' best-selling African-American author. Harvard University professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the anthology's general editors, has denied that the controversies surrounding Haley's works are the reason for this exclusion. In 1998 Dr. Gates acknowledged the doubts surrounding Haley's claims about Roots, saying, "Most of us feel it's highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village whence his ancestors sprang. Roots is a work of the imagination rather than strict historical scholarship."
Early in the 1980s Haley worked with the Walt Disney Company to develop an Equatorial Africa pavilion for its Epcot Center theme park. Haley appeared on a CBS broadcast of Epcot Center's opening day celebration, discussing the plans and exhibiting concept art with host Danny Kaye. Ultimately, the pavilion was not built due to political and financial issues.
Late in the 1970s Haley had begun working on a second historical novel based on another branch of his family, traced through his grandmother Queen; she was the daughter of a black slave woman and her white master. He did not finish the novel before dying in Seattle, Washington, of a heart attack. He was buried beside his childhood home in Henning, Tennessee. At his request, the novel was finished by David Stevens and was published as Alex Haley's Queen. It was subsequently adapted as a movie of the same name in 1993.
Late in Haley's life he had acquired a small farm in Clinton, Tennessee, although at the time it had a Norris, Tennessee address. The Farm is a few miles from the Museum of Appalachia, and Haley lived there until his death. After his death the property was sold to the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), which calls it the Alex Haley Farm. The nonprofit organization uses the farm as a national training center and retreat site. An abandoned barn on the farm property was rebuilt as a traditional cantilevered barn, using a design by architect Maya Lin. The building now serves as a library for the CDF.
The University of Tennessee Libraries, in Knoxville, Tennessee, maintains a collection of Alex Haley's personal works in its Special Collections Department. The works contain notes, outlines, bibliographies, research, and legal papers documenting Haley's Roots through 1977. Of particular interest are the items showing Harold Courlander's lawsuit against Haley, Doubleday & Company, and various affiliated groups. Portions of Alex Haley's personal collection is also located at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center's Special Collections and Archives in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
The following are the Pulitzer Prizes for 1977.Alex Haley's Queen
Alex Haley's Queen (also known as Queen) is a 1993 American television miniseries that aired in three installments on February 14, 16, and 18 on CBS. The miniseries is an adaptation of the novel Queen: The Story of an American Family, by Alex Haley and David Stevens. The novel is based on the life of Queen Jackson Haley, Haley's paternal grandmother. Alex Haley died in February 1992 before completing the novel. It was later finished by David Stevens and published in 1993. Stevens also wrote the screenplay for the miniseries.Alex Haley's Queen was directed by John Erman, and stars Halle Berry in the title role. It tells the life story of a young woman and it shows the problems which biracial slaves and former slaves faced in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. Throughout her life, Queen struggles to fit into the two cultures of her heritage; and at times, each side shuns her.Alex Haley House and Museum
Alex Haley House and Museum State Historic Site is one of the Tennessee Historical Commission's state-owned historic sites and is located in Henning, Tennessee, United States. It is open to the public and partially funded by an agreement with the Tennessee Historical Commission. It was originally known as W. E. Palmer House and was the boyhood home of author Alex Haley. He was buried on the grounds. The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In 2010, the site debuted the state-funded Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center which features a museum and interpretive center (designed by architect Louis Pounders) with exhibitions covering Haley's life.David Haley
David Haley is a Democratic member of the Kansas Senate, representing the 4th District since 2001. From 1995 to 2001, he was a Kansas Representative. He ran unsuccessfully for Kansas Secretary of State in 2002 and 2006.
He is the son of politician George W. Haley and nephew of Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley.Family saga
The family saga is a genre of literature which chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families over a period of time. In novels (or sometimes sequences of novels) with a serious intent, this is often a thematic device used to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multitude of perspectives.
The word saga meaning saying, comes from the Icelandic language and refers to Old Norse and Icelandic family stories.
The typical family saga follows generations of a family through a period of history in a series of novels. A number of subgenres of the form exist such as the AGA saga.
Successful writers of popular family sagas include Susan Howatch, R. F. Delderfield and Philippa Carr.
Examples of family sagas of literary note include:
The Sagas of Icelanders - the medieval Icelandic family sagas whence the word 'saga' is derived;
Dream of the Red Chamber - one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese Literature, it chronicles the rise and decline of the Jia family;
Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset;
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh;
Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann;
The Covenant, by James A. Michener;
Dune, by Frank Herbert;
The Tower and the Hive series by Anne McCaffrey, set in the universe of the "Pegasus" trilogy;
the Shannara cycle, by Terry Brooks;
A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, by Henry Williamson;
The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy;
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende;
The Jalna books, by Mazo de la Roche;
The Kent Family Chronicles and The Crown Family Saga, by John Jakes;
Strangers and Brothers, by C. P. Snow;
The Immigrants, by Howard Fast;
The Mallens, by Catherine Cookson;
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
Time and the Wind, by Erico Verissimo
The Palaeologian Dynasty. The Rise and Fall of Byzantium, by George Leonardos;
Roots, by Alex Haley;
The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough;
Holes, a novel by Louis Sachar;
The Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolò, Renaissance-set novel series by Dorothy Dunnett;
Fall on Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald;
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides;
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith;
The Witcher, by Andrzej Sapkowski;
Captains and the Kings, by Taylor Cadwell;
Evergreen, by Belva Plain;
The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold;
The Emberverse series, by S. M. Stirling
Roma, by Steven SaylorGambian Americans
Gambian Americans are Americans of Gambian descent. 3,035 Americans reported Gambian ancestry in the 2000 census. Additionally, during the Atlantic slave trade, many Africans from what is now The Gambia were sold as slaves in the United States. Gambian immigrants include members of ethnic groups such as the Mandinka.
In modern times, Gambians have emigrated to the United States since the 1970s with the goal of entering into higher education. While many of these students returned home after completing their studies, others have set on the United States as a permanent residence, attracting friends and family to the country. Gambian communities exist in Chicago and Washington, DC. Most Gambians living in the United States are Muslim or Christian.Georg Stanford Brown
Georg Stanford Brown (born June 24, 1943 in Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban-American actor and director, perhaps best known as one of the stars of the ABC police television series The Rookies from 1972–76. On the show, Brown played the character of Officer Terry Webster.
During the 1960s, Brown had a variety of roles in films, including Henri Philipot in The Comedians (1967), Theon Gibson in Dayton's Devils (1968), and Dr. Willard in Bullitt (1968). His 1970s films included Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), The Man (1972), and Wild in the Sky (1972), co-starring Brandon De Wilde, as anti-war, anti-establishment guerrillas, who devise a scheme to destroy Fort Knox with an atomic bomb.
Brown later played Tom Harvey (son of Chicken George, great-grandson of Kunta Kinte, and great-grandfather of Alex Haley) in the 1977 television miniseries Roots, and 1979's Roots: The Next Generations.
In 1980, he starred in the TV movie The Night the City Screamed, and in Stir Crazy opposite Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Later in 1984 he starred in the TV movie The Jesse Owens Story in the role of Lew Gilbert. He then went on to a supporting role in yet another miniseries North & South in 1985 as the character Garrison Grady.
In 1986, he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for directing the final episode ("Parting Shots") in season 5 of Cagney & Lacey. Brown co-starred in the comedy sequel House Party 2 in 1991, and the Showtime television show Linc's from 1998 thru 2000. Brown also directed several second-season episodes of the television series Hill Street Blues. More recently, Brown had a recurring role on the FX drama series Nip/Tuck.Jufureh
Jufureh, Juffureh or Juffure is a town in the Gambia, 30 kilometers inland on the north bank of the River Gambia in the North Bank Division near James Island. The town is home to a museum and Fort Jillifree.
Jufureh is best known for its appearance in Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, as the birthplace of Haley's ancestor Kunta Kinte. After the publication of Roots, Juffure became a significant tourist destination. This led to economic benefits for the town, including the construction of an elementary school, a new market aimed at tourists, and improved roads.In 1651 a small plot of land from the village was leased by Jacob Kettler, the Duke of Courland from the king of Kombo, as part of the Couronian colonization of Africa.Demographically, the predominant religion in the village is Islam. In 1999, a mosque and school, The Alex Haley Mosque and School Complex, was opened in Juffure, where Haley traced back his ancestry through genealogical research.Kunta Kinte
Kunta Kinte (c. 1750 – c. 1822; KOON-tah KIN-tay) is a character in the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by American author Alex Haley. Haley claimed that Kunta Kinte was based on one of his ancestors: a Gambian man who was born in 1750, enslaved and taken to America and who died in 1822. Haley said that his account of Kunta's life in Roots was a mixture of fact and fiction. The extent to which Kunta Kinte is based on fact is disputed.Kunta Kinte's life story also figured in two US-made television series based on the book: the original 1977 TV miniseries Roots, and a 2016 remake of the same name. In the original miniseries, the character was portrayed as a teenager by LeVar Burton and as an adult by John Amos. In the 2016 miniseries, he is portrayed by Malachi Kirby. Additionally, Burton reprised his role as Kunta in the TV movie Roots: The Gift, a fictional tale originally broadcast during the 1988 Christmas season.Mama Flora's Family
Mama Flora's Family is a 1997 historical fiction novel by Alex Haley and David Stevens. The story spans from the 1920s to the 1970s as it follows Flora, a daughter of poor black Mississippi sharecroppers, and her descendants. Haley died before completing the novel, with Stevens finishing the story line.In 1998 the book was adapted into a made for TV miniseries of the same name.Palmerstown, U.S.A.
Palmerstown, U.S.A. (shortened to Palmerstown in March 1981) is a television drama series that aired on CBS from March 20, 1980 to June 9, 1981. It was created by Norman Lear and Alex Haley, whose childhood was the basis for the series. It tells the story of two nine-year-old boys in the rural Southern community of Palmerstown who become best friends during the Great Depression, despite one being black and the other being white.Roots (1977 miniseries)
Roots is an American television miniseries based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The series first aired on ABC in January 1977. Roots received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third-highest-rated episode for any type of television series, and the second-most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history. It was produced on a budget of $6.6 million. The series introduced LeVar Burton in the role of Kunta Kinte.
A sequel, Roots: The Next Generations, first aired in 1979, and a second sequel, Roots: The Gift, a Christmas TV movie, starring Burton and Louis Gossett Jr., first aired in 1988. A related film, Alex Haley's Queen, is based on the life of Queen Jackson Haley, who was Alex Haley's paternal grandmother.
In 2016, a remake of the original miniseries, with the same name, was commissioned by the History channel and screened by the channel on Memorial Day.The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted between 1963 and Malcolm X's 1965 assassination. The Autobiography is a spiritual conversion narrative that outlines Malcolm X's philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. After the leader was killed, Haley wrote the book's epilogue. He described their collaborative process and the events at the end of Malcolm X's life.
While Malcolm X and scholars contemporary to the book's publication regarded Haley as the book's ghostwriter, modern scholars tend to regard him as an essential collaborator. They say he intentionally muted his authorial voice to create the effect of Malcolm X speaking directly to readers. Haley influenced some of Malcolm X's literary choices. For example, Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam during the period when he was working on the book with Haley. Rather than rewriting earlier chapters as a polemic against the Nation which Malcolm X had rejected, Haley persuaded him to favor a style of "suspense and drama". According to Manning Marable, "Haley was particularly worried about what he viewed as Malcolm X's anti-Semitism" and he rewrote material to eliminate it.When the Autobiography was published, The New York Times reviewer described it as a "brilliant, painful, important book". In 1967, historian John William Ward wrote that it would become a classic American autobiography. In 1998, Time named The Autobiography of Malcolm X as one of ten "required reading" nonfiction books. James Baldwin and Arnold Perl adapted the book as a film; their screenplay provided the source material for Spike Lee's 1992 film Malcolm X.USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39)
The USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39) is a United States Coast Guard Cutter and former U.S. Navy vessel that was recommissioned for Coast Guard duty on 10 July 1999. It was first commissioned as the USS Edenton (ATS-1), an Edenton-class salvage and rescue ship on 23 January 1971. In 1995, Edenton won the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award for the Atlantic Fleet.
The conversion from a salvage ship to a Coast Guard cutter involved the removal of the stern towing machine, forward crane, and A-frame, and the installation of a flight-deck, retractable hangar, and air-search radar. Additionally, her four aging Paxman diesel engines were replaced with four 16 cylinder Caterpillar diesels.
The cutter was named after author and journalist Alex Haley, the first chief journalist of the Coast Guard, the first African-American to reach the rank of chief petty officer, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Haley served in the Coast Guard for 20 years.
Her current home port is Kodiak, Alaska at the Coast Guard Base Kodiak from where she carries out her Fishery Law Enforcement and Search and Rescue primary missions.