News & Notes:  Thirty Years of Roots

Son of Roots:  William Alexander Haley


 

Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, on August 11, 1921, the oldest of three sons. In 1939 he began a twenty-year service in the US Coast Guard, where he became its first Chief Journalist, a position he held until he retired in 1959 to become a magazine writer and interviewer. Alex Haley's numerous awards and decorations from the Coast Guard include the American Defense Service Medal, World War II Victory Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, and being the first and only person to receive an honorary degree from the Coast Guard Academy.

Published in 1965, Alex Haley's first book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, sold more than six million copies by 1977 in the United States and other countries and was later named by Time magazine one of the ten most important nonfiction books of the twentieth century.

In 1976, after twelve years of research, Alex published Roots, a novel based loosely on his family's history. Roots was eventually published in thirty-seven languages. It won the 1977 National Book Award as well as a Pulitzer Prize, and went on to become a landmark television miniseries in 1977. The book and film both reached unparalleled success. The series set records for the number of viewers, and the Sunday night finale achieved the highest ranking for a single television production.

Alex Haley died in Seattle, Washington in 1992; however, his life and his legacy continue to impact the lives and works of people throughout the world to this day.

 
 
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