Alex Haley: And the Books That Changed a Nation by Robert J. NorrellIt is difficult to think of two twentieth century books by one author that have had as much influence on American culture when they were published as Alex Haleys monumental bestsellers, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), and Roots (1976). They changed the way white and black America viewed each other and the countrys history. This first biography of Haley follows him from his childhood in relative privilege in deeply segregated small town Tennessee to fame and fortune in high powered New York City. It was in the Navy, that Haley discovered himself as a writer, which eventually led his rise as a star journalist in the heyday of magazine personality profiles. At Playboy Magazine, Haley profiled everyone from Martin Luther King and Miles Davis to Johnny Carson and Malcolm X, leading to their collaboration on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Roots was for Haley a deeper, more personal reach. The subsequent book and miniseries ignited an ongoing craze for family history, and made Haley one of the most famous writers in the country. Roots sold half a million copies in the first two months of publication, and the original television miniseries was viewed by 130 million people.
Haley died in 1992. This deeply researched and compelling book by Robert J. Norrell offers the perfect opportunity to revisit his authorship, his career as one of the first African American star journalists, as well as an especially dramatic time of change in American history.
Alex Haley - His Search For Roots (1977)
Coast Guard for two decades before pursuing a career as a writer. The following decade, Haley made history with his book Roots , chronicling his family line from Gambia to the slave-holding South. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book was turned into a miniseries that became one of the most popular TV shows of all time. Major controversy ensued, however, when Haley was accused of plagiarism and presenting historical and genealogical inaccuracies. Nonetheless, Roots has remained a groundbreaking work in the public imagination. Haley died in Seattle, Washington, on February 10, Upon retiring from the Coast Guard in , Haley set out to make it as a freelance writer.
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ABC adapted the book as a television miniseries of the same name and aired it in to a record-breaking audience of million viewers. In the United States, the book and miniseries raised the public awareness of black American history and inspired a broad interest in genealogy and family history. Haley's first book was The Autobiography of Malcolm X , published in , a collaboration through numerous lengthy interviews with the subject , a major black leader. 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.
By April almost two million hardcover copies of the book had been sold and million people had seen all or part of the eight-episode television series. Roots is considered by many critics a classic in African American literature and culture. His father managed the family lumber business while his mother was a schoolteacher. Growing up, Haley became interested in his ancestry while listening to colorful stories told by his family. These stories, which traced seven generations, would become the source and inspiration for Haley's later work. School records indicate that Haley was not an exceptional student, and at the age of Alex Haley.