May 31 2007

30 Years Since Alex Haley’s Roots

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Alex Haley's RootsGUEST: Bill Haley, Alex Haley’s son

Thirty years ago this year, the mini series based on Alex Haley’s ground breaking book, “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” aired on television in the US, casting a spell across the country. Alex Haley traced his ancestry back to a proud African tribesman named Kunta Kinte who was forced into slavery. His novel won a Pulitzer prize and the National Book Critics Award. The miniseries, which won more than 30 Emmys, attracted over 80 million viewers per episode, with more than a 100 million viewing the finale. Despite these successes, the book had a troubled history. Even though Haley described the book as a blend of fact and fiction, critics questioned the extent of its factual basis. Additionally a copyright infringement lawsuit was settled with Harold Courtlander, who claimed that a passage was lifted from a novel he wrote. The book has been republished this year by Vanguard who say that “none of the controversy affects the basic issues. Roots fostered a remarkable dialogue about not just the past but the then present day 1970s and how America had fared since the days portrayed in Roots.” Michael Eric Dyson writes in the introduction, “Long before demands for history from the bottom up became a rallying cry of progressive historians, Haley’s book practiced what it preached.”

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “30 Years Since Alex Haley’s Roots”

  1. RPon 01 Jun 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Thank you for doing this show. I saw Roots’ first broadcast 30 years ago at the age of nine. It made a strong impression on me, and I remember my k-3 class discussing it.

    It was decades later that I learned how much more horrible the slave trade was (via KPFK). Nevertheless, Roots made a strong and lasting impression on me.

    Roots is a rare example of TV realizing its potential for good.

  2. Brion 08 Feb 2010 at 6:57 pm

    African Americans deserve a better history than Roots as it does not properly detail how Muslims enslaved 99% of salves that came to the Western Hemisphere. Whites were not even allowed on the Continent, they stayed on islands. The death rate when held by Muslims was over 2x higher than during the sailing trip. Haley knew better but apparently wanted to change history to make whites worse when to this day, slaves are held in Africa as well as in Asian countries.

    If the first half hour is so inaccurate, how much more inaccurate can the balance of the book and series be?

    Again, African Americans really do deserve an unbiased view of what occured. We all do.

  3. wendy martinon 23 Nov 2011 at 11:16 am

    I guess you can say I grew up with ‘Roots’. The research I’ve done on Alex Haley should inspire everyone to know who their family is and where they come from. I’m 47 years old. I’m a real ‘history buff’..I suppose you can say. I give my greatest blessings to the Haley family.
    I would like to, also, add I serve in the Military (as both Mr. Alex Haley and Mr. William Haley have done). I have been proudly serving for 15 years now. I hope the Haley family can continue to find other relatives of theirs, as well.

  4. James Mitchellon 26 Jun 2012 at 2:45 pm


    It’s been a long time. I was the RR/EO Officer for the 3rd BCT at Ft Dix, NJ when you was one of the Post RR/EO NCO.

    If you remember that was the period of time where 80% of the Officers on the Post were Black, starting with LT Gen Julius Becton was Post Commander down to us 1LT.

    It was great meeting your Father on several ocassions, but it was a pleasure to talked to you and served with with you.

    I remember meeting your prior to him going to Africa at Norfolk State University in the falll of ’69. He spoke to us about his book and his plans to go to Africa. I remember contributing my $5.00 that I had plan to spend for lunch.

    Anyway, I would love to contact you to talk about the old times at Dix and the RR/EO programs we sponsored at Dix.

    Oh, to Bri, I remember having a conversation with Alex and I told him that his story could be any Black person’s story…his reply was, “True…so when are you gonna write your book?” So Bri, When are you gonna write your book?

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