It’s a rare privilege for an author to see, in their lifetime, the broad and deep social and cultural impact that one of their books has.
One of those who were so privileged was author Alex Haley. His meticulously researched 1976 book Roots, which traced his own family’s ancestry from Africa, became not just a best seller, but a cultural milepost.
It awakened a new pride of family and ancestry among millions of African-Americans, and it shone a harsh spotlight on the horrors of slavery, four black and white alike.
ABC TV recognized the power of Roots, and turned it into television’s first major miniseries. It was, and remains to this day, a landmark television achievement.
I met him almost 33 years ago, after he had just finished a novel based, in part, on the kind of characters he popularized in Roots.
So here now, from 1988, Alex Haley.
Today, August 11th 2021, would have been Alex Haley’s 100th birthday. He died in 1992 at the age of 70.