“In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it.” – Alex Haley
Born on this day in 1921, Haley wrote one of the pre-eminent books on the African American experience with his massive best-seller Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The 1976 book has been in continous print since it’s appearance, bolstered by two critically acclaimed television adaptations – the first in 1977 and the second this past year. The first adaptation established a record-breaking audience of over 130 million viewers.
The book and miniseries raised the public awareness of African American history and inspired a broad interest in genealogy and family history for all races causing Haley to say that was one of his proudest accomplishments. ”In every conceivable manner," he said, "the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”
A native of New York, Haley's first book, which catapulted him onto the national scene, was The Autobiography of Malcolm X published in 1965.
A Coast Guard veteran from both World War II and the Korean War, he was self-taught as a writer in order to “report” on things to folks back home, writing both for individuals and for his community newspapers. After his Coast Guard career, he expanded his reportorial efforts, which eventually led him to his biographical writing. While he achieved some recognition for his other works, it was Roots that always dominated.
“(But) I look at my books the way parents look at their children,” Haley said. “The fact that one becomes more successful than the others doesn't make me love the less successful one any less.”
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