- NAME: Alex Haley
- OCCUPATION: Journalist, Author
- BIRTH DATE: August 11, 1921
- DEATH DATE: February 10, 1992
- EDUCATION: Alcorn A&M College (Alcorn State University), Elizabeth City State Teachers College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Ithaca, New York
- PLACE OF DEATH: Seattle, Washington
- Full Name: Alexander Murray Palmer Haley
- AKA: Alex Haley
- AKA: Alexander Haley
Best Known For
Alex Haley was an American writer whose works of historical fiction and reportage depicted the struggles of African Americans.
Built in 1939, the Lenox Lounge was a hub of Harlem’s cultural life, attracting famous regulars like Billie Holiday and Langston Hughes. In December 2012, the Lenox Lounge closed its doors with plans to open at a new address.
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The interview was such a success that the magazine contracted Haley to do a series of interviews with prominent African-Americans. Known as "The Playboy Interviews," Haley interviewed such prominent figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones and Malcolm X. After concluding his 1963 interview with Malcolm X,
Haley asked the civil rights leader if he could write a book on his life. The result, two years later, was The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley. A seminal book of the civil rights movement as well as an international bestseller, the book memorialized for eternity the life of Malcolm X while transforming Haley, his collaborator, into a celebrated writer.
In the aftermath of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, freelance writing offers for Haley began pouring in, and he could have easily lived out his lifelong dream of being a successful independent writer. Instead, Haley embarked on a hugely ambitious new project to trace and retell the story of his ancestors' journey from Africa to America as slaves, and then their rise from slavery to freedom. During a decade of research on three continents, Haley examined slave ship records at archives in the United States and England and traveled to Gambia, the home of his ancestors in West Africa.
In his ancestral village of Juffure, Haley listened to a tribal historian recount how Kunta Kinte, Haley's ancestor and the protagonist of his book, was captured and sold into slavery. Still, despite his meticulous research, Haley often despaired that he could never recapture the true spirit of his ancestors. He once recalled, "I asked myself, what right had I to be sitting in a carpeted high-rise apartment writing about what it was like in the hold of a slave ship?" In an attempt to answer this question, he booked passage on a ship from Liberia to America and spent his nights lying on a board in the hold of the ship in nothing but his underwear. When Haley finally published Roots in 1976—part fictionalized novel, part richly detailed historical account—the book caused a national sensation.
A review in The New York Times stated, "No other novelist or historian has provided such a shattering, human view of slavery," and the book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. In 1977, ABC adapted Roots into a television miniseries that attracted a record-shattering 130 million viewers. Thirty-seven American cities declared January 23-30, the week the program aired, "Roots Week."
Haley's later works include A Different Kind of Christmas (1988) and Queen, another historical novel based on a different branch of his family, published posthumously in 1993.
Haley died of a heart attack on February 10, 1992, at the age of 70.
Today, Haley is credited with inspiring a nationwide interest in genealogy and contributed to the easing of racial tensions in America. Time magazine called The Autobiography of Malcolm X one of the 10 most important nonfiction books of the 20th century.
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They are the famous African-American writers who have fearlessly examined cultural stigmas, provided intimate life details, presented new ideas and created remarkable fiction through literary works. For their prophetic genius, these men and women have received Pulitzer Prizes, NAACP awards and even Nobel Prizes, among other honors. Our list of prominent African-American authors includes Toni Morrison, who has detailed the lives of black characters who struggle with identity amidst racism and hostility; Langston Hughes, a founder of the Harlem Renaissance; and Maya Angelou, who has eloquently chronicled various eras of her life through her autobiographies.
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