Roots & the Works of Alex Haley

Author Alex Haley died in 1992, but people everywhere are still inspired by his work. Let's take a closer look at some of his contributions today.

Stories that Haley heard as a child inspired Roots, the book that sold millions of copies, was published in over 35 languages, won a Pulitzer and a National Book Award, and became a record-breaking and unforgettable television event. It took him 12 years and three continents to research and write the novel, which was published in 1976. The original miniseries Roots aired in 1977. This year Roots was remade to bring the unforgettable story of Kunta Kinte and his descendants to a new audience. It's out on DVD August 23.


The story of Haley's ancestors continues in Alex Haley's Queen, which focuses on his grandmother. The novel was turned into the miniseries Queen starring Halle Berry as the titular character.

Before gaining worldwide acclaim and inspiring countless Americans as a novelist, Haley was a journalist (and before that he served 20 years in the United States Coast Guard). His interview with Miles Davis for Playboy Magazine earned him a spot as the magazine's interviewer. He went on to converse with many notable figures, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.  A selection of these conversations is available in The Playboy Interviews.

It was in 1962 that Haley interviewed Malcolm X for Playboy, and that conversation led to the men collaborating for almost two years on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. For a closer look at the way the men worked together, check out this in-depth article on Malcolm X from the online resource History Research Center.

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