ALEX HALEY Biography - Writers


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Alexander Murphy Palmer Haley was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York.       
He was the oldest child of Simon Alexander and Bertha Palmer Haley. At the time     
of his birth, his father was a graduate student at Cornell University and his       
mother was a music teacher.                                                         
As a young boy, Alex Haley first learned of his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte,       
by listening to the family stories of his maternal grandparants while spending       
his summers in Henning, Tennessee. According to family history, Kunta Kinte         
landed with other Gambian Africans in "Napolis" (Annapolis, Maryland) where he       
was sold into slavery.                                                               
Alex Haley's quest to learn more about his family history resulted in his           
writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Roots. The book has been published in 37     
languages, and was made into the first week-long television mini-series, viewed     
by an estimated 130 million people. Roots also generated widespread interest in     
Haley's writing career began after he entered the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939.         
Haley was the first member of the U.S. Coast Guard with a Journalist designation.   
In 1999 the U.S. Coast Guard honored Haley by naming a Coast Guard Cutter after     
him. Haley's personal motto, "Find the Good and Praise It," appears on the ship's   
emblem. He retired from the military after 20 years of service, and then             
continued writing.                                                                   
Out of the service, he tried his hand at journalism in the private sector. His       
first successful article was an interview that appreared in Playboy Magazine in     
1962. Alex next worked on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Published in 1965, it     
became Haley's first major book.                                                     
It was about this time his thoughts then turned back to the family story of the     
African slave that he heard as a child. His work on the story, which he knew he     
had to write, became a primary focus of his writing efforts. He details his many     
years of research in the last chapter of Roots. First referred to as Before This     
Anger, it was eventually published in abbreviated form in 1974 by the Reader's       
Digest. The completed version of Roots was placed on bookshelves in 1976. The       
award winning book and television mini-series introduced Kunta Kinte to the         
Other Haley publications include A Different Kind of Christmas, a 1990 book         
about the underground railroad, and Queen, the story of Haley's paternal             
ancestors. Queen was produced into a television mini-series, which first aired       
in the winter of 1993.                                                               
Perhaps one of Alex Haley's greatest gifts was in speaking. He was a fascinating     
teller of tales. In great demand as a lecturer, both nationally and                 
internationally, he was on a lecture tour in Seattle, Washington, when he died       
on February 10, 1992.