Black History Presents – Daily knowledge: Alex Haley (Day 24)
Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was a writer. He is best known as the author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family and the coauthor of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Haley conducted the first interview for Playboy magazine. The interview, with Miles Davis, appeared in the September 1962 issue. In the interview, Davis candidly spoke about his thoughts and feelings on racism and it was that interview that set the tone for what became a significant feature of the magazine. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Playboy Interview with Haley was the longest he ever granted to any publication. Throughout the 1960s, Haley was responsible for some of the magazine’s most notable interviews, including an interview with American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell, who agreed to meet with Haley only after Haley, in a phone conversation, assured him that he was not Jewish. Haley remained calm and professional during the interview, even though Rockwell kept a handgun on the table throughout it. Haley also interviewed Muhammad Ali, who spoke about changing his name from Cassius Clay. Other interviews include Jack Ruby’s defense attorney Melvin Belli, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jim Brown, Johnny Carson, and Quincy Jones. He completed a memoir of Malcolm X just weeks before Malcolm X was assassinated in February 1965. In 1966, Haley received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for The Autobiography of Malcolm X. In 1973, Haley co-wrote his only screenplay, Super Fly T.N.T.. The film starred and was directed by Ron O’Neal. In 1976, Haley published Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a novel based on his family’s history, starting with the story of Kunta Kinte, kidnapped in The Gambia in 1767 and transported to the Province of Maryland to be sold as a slave. Haley claimed to be a seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte, and Haley’s work on the novel involved ten years of research, intercontinental travel and writing. He went to the village of Juffure, where Kunta Kinte grew up and which is still in existence, and listened to a tribal historian tell the story of Kinte’s capture. Haley also traced the records of the ship, The Lord Ligonier, which he said carried his ancestor to America. Haley won a Special Award for the work in 1977 from the Pulitzer Board. Roots was also adapted into a popular television miniseries that year.