Alex Haley was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York. He was the oldest son of Simon Alexander Haley and Bertha Palmer Haley. His father was a World War I veteran, and his mother was a teacher. Until he was five years old, he lived in Henning, Tennessee with his grandmother because his father had to finish his studies. Alex was always extremely proud of his father as a young man. Alex Haley graduated from high school at the age of 15 and enrolled at Alcorn A&M College (Alcorn State University) in Mississippi.
He focused hard on education, just like his father. In 1939 he quit school, though, to become part of the Coast Guard. He retired from the Coast Guard in 1959, and decided to make writing part of his life. He became a freelance writer. He wrote many articles over the years and got them published, but he got very little pay. Haley can still remember working 16-hours a day for roughly $2,000 a year, surviving on not much but canned sardines. Alex Haley was the author of the Roots phenomenon.
He had learned tales of his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte, as a child. Alex was told he was Kunta Kinte’s seventh generation descendant, and after ten years of research he discovered the truth. He went to the village of Juffure, where Kunta Kinte grew up, and listened to the true tales of a tribal historian. Alex said that the most emotional moment of his life was standing at the site in Annapolis, Maryland, where his ancestor stood in chains from Africa more than 200 years ago. Alex Haley also wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X book.
His big breakthrough was in 1962 when he was asked to do an interview with the trumpeter Miles Davis in the Playboy magazine. The interview was so successful that Haley was given a contract to conduct interviews with several other African Americans. Haley interviewed Martin Luther King Jr. , Sammy Davis Jr. , Quincy Jones, and Malcolm X. After an interview with Malcolm X, Alex asked if he could write a book on Malcolm’s life. Two years later, The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told To Alex Haley book was published.
Not only did Alex Haley write these beautiful pieces of art he showed people of color that they too should be proud of their heritage and avoid easily falling victim to the viciousness of racism. Through his writing, Alex Haley was capable of making African Americans feel strong and triumphant. He attempted to depict African Amercians for what they truly opposed to what many racists may perceive them to be. This is in my opinion, is what Alex Haley has contributed to society. If I could meet Alex Haley, I would tell him how much I admire him and his ancestor, Kunta Kinte.
I watched Roots from start to finish and it honestly blew my mind. I would also ask a few questions, such as- “What was it like after you found out Kunta Kinte was your ancestor? ” “How did you feel when you stood at the site where Kunta Kinte arrived? ” “Did you like school? ” And finally, “Do you know how much I love Roots? ” I actually did enjoy researching Alex Haley because I learned a few new things. I had been wanting to learn more about the man who directed Roots. So when I was given this project I was pretty excited.