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Alex Haley [1921-1992]

Alexander Murray Palmer "Alex" Haley [1921-1992] was an American writer & the author of the 1976 book "Roots: The Saga of an American Family". ABC adapted the book as a television miniseries of the same name & aired it in 1977 to a record-breaking audience of 130 million viewers. In the USA the book & miniseries raised the public awareness of African American history & inspired a broad interest in genealogy & family history." See Alex Haley Tribute Site

6 Principal Characters in this Story:
Kunta Kinte [c1750-c1822] Alex Haley's ancestor (as portrayed in "Roots"). Born in Juffure (The Gambia).
Alex Haley [1921-1992], author. Published "Roots" in 1976. Purchased "Haley Farm" in 1984.
John Rice Irwin [b.1930], historian. Founded Museum of Appalachia in 1968.
Marian Wright Edelman [b.1939], founded Childen's Defense Fund in 1973. Purchased "Haley Farm" in 1994.
Leonard Riggio [b.1941], owner of Barnes & Nobel. Paid for new buildings at Haley Farm in 1999 & 2004.
Maya Lin [b.1959], architect & designer. Designed both new buildings at Haley Farm (including water table).

13 Peace Monuments Related to Alex Haley & "Roots:"
1977 - Alex Haley Boyhood Home & Museum, State Historic Site, Henning, Tennessee
1981 - Plaque honoring Alex Haley & Kunta Kinte, City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland - STOLEN
1984 - Alex Haley Farm, Clinton, Tennessee - SOLD TO CDF IN 1994
1989 - Alex Haley Lodge, Clinton, Tennessee
1990 - "Behold" (Kunta Kinte statue), MLK National Historic Site, Altanta, Georgia
1992 - Alex Haley Grave, Henning, Tennessee
1998 - Alex Haley Statue, Haley Heritage Square, Knoxville, Tennessee
1999 - USCGC Alex Haley (US Coast Guard Cutter), currently in Alaskan waters
Date? - Haley Hall (dining facility) US Coast Guard Training Center, Petaluma, California.
1999 - Alex Haley Mosque & School Complex, Juffureh (The Gambia)
2002 - Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland
Date? - Roots Heritage Trail, Juffureh (The Gambia)
2011 - Kunta Kinteh Island, Juffureh (The Gambia)

August 11, 1921 - Birth of Alex Haley [1921-1992], Ithaca, New York (USA). "Haley's father was Simon Haley, a professor of agriculture at Alabama A&M University, and his mother was Bertha George Haley (née Palmer), who had grown up in Henning, Tennessee [82 km northeast of Memphis]. The family had African American, Mandinka, Cherokee, Scottish & Scottish-Irish roots. Haley lived with his family in Henning before returning to Ithaca with his family when he was five years old."

1939-1959 - Alex Haley serves 20 years in the US Coast Guard, becomes the Coast Guard's first Black chief petty officer, and emerges as the Coast Guard's top journalist.

1941 - Alex Haley marries Nannie Branch (1941–1964). Their daughter Lydia Haley is mother of Michael Baker, "a husband & father living in Newport, North Carolina [as of February 2015]... 'I will always be Alex Haley’s grandson,' he says, 'and I’m okay with that. But I am also Michael: a man who has made mistakes - incarcerated for over a decade - I learned difficult lessons & now have something that I can pass on to my family & the world...'"

1959 - After retiring to civilian life in 1959, Haley writes for Readers' Digest, Playboy & other magazines.

1964 - Alex Haley marries Juliette Collins (1964–1972).

1965 - "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." A Playboy interview leads to Haley's first best seller, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."

Late March 1967 - "Haley made his first trip to the Gambia, the first time he had touched African soil. After a long flight from New York to Dakar, Senegal, Haley prepared to board a Nigerian Airlines connecting flight to Yundum Airport in Bathurst, Gambia. When the customs representastive handed him a form, Haley recalls staring at the 'name' section and thinking 'I really don't know my real name, as you who never left Africa know yours..."

Date? - Haley visits Juffureh (The Gambia), the village near James Island to which he traced his ancestor Kunta Kinte. Is this during Haley's second trip to the Gambia? /// Note Freed Slave Statue at left (globe for head, lamb & "Never Again!" at base; when was this erected?). /// As result of the fame of Haley's "Roots," the name of James Island will be changed to Kunta Kinteh Island in 2011.

September 29, 1967 - "Haley has stated that the most emotional moment of his life occurred on [this date], when he stood at the site in Annapolis, Maryland, where his ancestor had arrived from Africa in chains exactly 200 years before. A memorial depicting Haley reading a story to young children gathered at his feet has since been erected [in 2002 at city Dock] in the center of Annapolis."

1968 - "John Rice Irwin [b.1930] founds the Museum of Appalachia [in Norris, Tennessee] to house & display his growing collection [of Appalchian artifacts]. By 1980, the museum had grown so large that Irwin left his position as director of the Tennessee Appalachia Education Cooperative to devote all of his time to the museum. Although the museum started as only a small log building, as of 2010, it has grown to a village-farm complex, comprehending more than 35 original mountain structures, two large display buildings containing thousands of artifacts, farm animals & several gardens. The museum was converted to a non-profit organization in 2003 & in May 2007, the museum announced its formal association with the Smithsonian Institution's Affiliations Program."

1973 - Haley writes his only screenplay, Super Fly T.N.T. The film starred & was directed by Ron O'Neal.

January 27, 1974 - "Journey to my Roots" by Alex Haley, Newsday. "The furtherest-back person Grandma & the others ever talked of - always in tones of awe, I noticed - they called 'the African.' They said that some ship had brought him to somewhere which they pronounced ''Naplis.' They said that then 'Mas’ John Waller' bought him for his plantation in 'Spotsylvania County, Va.' This African kept on escaping, the fourth time trying to kill the 'hateful po' cracker' slavecatcher, who gave him a choice of punishment: castration or losing one foot. The African took a foot being chopped off with an axe against a tree stump, they said, and he was about to die. But his life was saved by “Mas’ John's” brother – a 'Mas' William Waller.' Crippling about, working in 'Mas' William's' house & yard, in time the African met & mated with 'the big house cook named Bell,' and there was born a girl named 'Kizzy.' As she grew up, her African daddy often showed her different kinds of things and told her what they were in his native tongue. Pointing at a banjo, the African uttered 'ko,' for example, or pointing at a river near the plantation, 'Kamby Bolong.' When addressed by other slaves as 'Toby,' the master’s name for him, the African said angrily that his name was 'Kin-tay.' And as gradually he learned more English words, he told young Kizzy some things about himself - for instance that he had been not far from his village, chopping wood to make himself a drum, when four men had surprised, overwhelmed & kidnaped him..."

1976 - "Roots: The Saga of an American Family." "A novel written by Alex Haley & first published in 1976. It tells the story of Kunta Kinte, an 18th-century African, captured as an adolescent & sold into slavery in the United States, & follows his life & the lives of his descendants in the US down to Haley. The release of the novel, combined with its hugely popular television adaptation, Roots (1977), led to a cultural sensation in the US. The novel spent 46 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List, including 22 weeks in that list's top spot. The last seven chapters of the novel were later adapted in the form of a second miniseries, Roots: The Next Generations, in 1979."

February 4, 1977 - "Why 'Roots' Hit Home," cover story in Time magazine.

May 9, 1977 - "ROOTS: Back to Africa with an embattled ALEX HALEY," cover story in People Magazine.

1977 - Alex Haley marries Myra (My) Lewis (author of Palmerstown first draft) who survies Haley in 1992. His earlier wives were Nannie Branch (1941–1964) & Juliette Collins (1964–1972).

May 11, 1977 - Alex Haley State Historic Site, 200 South Church Street, Henning, Tennessee (USA). "Built in 1919 by Will E. Palmer, the maternal grandfather of Alex Haley [1921-1992]. From 1921 to 1929, & during some subsequent summers, Haley lived here with his grandparents. It was on the porch of this house that Haley heard from his grandmother the family stories that inspired him to write Roots: The Saga of an Amerian Family, retelling tales of his African ancestors who were brought to America as slaves. The work won him the 1976 Pulitzer Prize, and the book was presented in an eight- part television adaptation in 1977. Haley is buried on the grounds" (lower right image). New interpretive center (lower left image) was opened in 2008.

July 8, 1977 - "Alex Haley's Tennessee Roots," by John Egerton in New Times, July 8 1977. Describes the dedication of the Haley home in Henning, Tennessee in 1977. Haley arrived late & left early, thus disappointing townsfolk who had worked hard to welcome their favorite son. Reprinted in "Shades of Gray: Dispatches from the Modern South," Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1991, pp. 39-57.

1979 - "Haley & Harold Courlander settle the [latter's plagiarism] case out of court for $650,000 & a statement that "Alex Haley acknowledges and regrets that various materials from 'The African' by Harold Courlander found their way into his book 'Roots.'"

In September 1981, a plaque honoring author Alex Haley & his ancestor Kunta Kinte was dedicated at City Dock [in Annapolis, Maryland]. Kunta Kinte, who arrived in America on a slave ship docking in Annapolis in 1767, was the subject of Haley's best-selling novel "Roots" & adapted into a groundbreaking TV miniseries in 1977. Within 48 hours of the dedication, the 70-pound memorial was stolen. A business card was left in its place reading: 'You have been patronized by the KKK.'" So what was PRINTED on the business card???

1982 to 1992 (Alex Haley in East Tennessee)

May 31, 1982 - SunSphere, 1982 World's Fair, Knoxville, Tennessee (USA). Theme structure of the 1982 World's Fair. Theme of the exposition was "Energy Turns the World." Click here for other peace towers.

1982 - According to Ken Libby, Haley visits the Knoxville World's Fair, is taken to the Museum of Appalachia in nearby Norris, Tennessee & meets its founder John Rice Irwin [b.1930]. According to Wikipedia, "Irwin [becomes] good friends with writer Alex Haley & inspired one of Haley's writings with his museum [what writing?]."

June 19, 1984 - Alex Haley purchases ____-acre farm in Anderson County, Tennessee. Its post office address is Norris but will change to Clinton. John Rice Irwin's Museum of Appalachia in Norris is 2.1 road miles away. /// There are only two structures on the farm: An 1830's farmhouse (which had been unoccupied for nearly 30 years) & an 1860's cantilevered barn (presumably also in bad condition). /// "After having the White House renovated, Mr. Haley did not enjoy living in this house because of the steep staircase & the fact that there were no closets in the house."

1984-1992 - Haley will make at least ten significant changes on his farm: 1984 Reconstuction of the farmhouse (now called the White House), 1985 Norton Pond (stocked with catfish), 1986 Hill House (now main office of CDF Haley Farm), Date? "Lil' Log Cabin" from Roane County (believed to by birthplace of Sam Rayburn [1882-1961], acquired from Museum of Appalachia, renamed Bethune-Height House by CDF), Date? Duck House (renamed Tobin House by CDF), Date? Murphy House (renamed Weaver House by CDF), 1989 foot bridge & gazebo on the pond, 1989 Haley Lodge (meeting/dining area, commercial kitchen, 6 bedrooms, one 3-room suite, etc.), 1989 Apple Orchard (originally 220 trees, now site of annual "Apple Picking Days"), 1989 guesthouse (last addition by Alex Haley, renamed the Wright House by CDF).

1984-1992 - Some of the people entertained by Alex Haley at the Haley Farm: Governor Lamar Alexander, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Tom T. Hall, Quincy Jones, Spencer Christian (ABC weatherman), Rev. Gardner Taylor, Rev. Bill Coffin, Rev. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Louis Gossett, Jr. (Fiddler in "Roots," _____ in "An Officer & a Gentleman"), Altavis Davis (Mrs. Sammy Davis, Jr.), A'Lelia Bundles (great granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker), David Stephens (writer of "Queen"), Glynn Turman (TV actor), John Rice Irwin (Museum of Appalachia), Robert Booker (Knoxville).

1984-1992 - Donna Kindrick (renovated the White House), Stooksbury-Long (housekeeper), Theresa Venable (librarian).

1986 - Tennessee Homecoming '86. Governor Lamar Alexander invites Alex Haley & Minnie Pearl to be co-chairs of this yearlong & statewide celebration.

1989 - Alex Haley Lodge, Clinton, Tennessee (USA). "Built by Mr. Haley to accomodate the many guests he liked to entertain on the Farm. Upstairs, there are 6 bedrooms with private baths & one three-room suite. The downstairs area boasts a large meeting/dining area, a private dining room or boardroom, a comfortable sunroom known as the Comer Room, 3 bathrooms, & a large commercial style kitchen."

January 11, 1990 - "Behold", Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, Atlanta, Georgia (USA). 12-foot statue of Kunta Kinte from the novel Roots by Alex Haley. Kinte is performing a Mandinka ceremony for his first-born, Kizzy: "Behold, the only thing greater than yourself." Sculpted by Patrick Morelli. Dedicated by Coretta Scott King. There are other Alex Haley statues in Annapolis, Maryland, & Knoxville, Tennessee, & Haley homes in Henning & Clinton, Tennessee.

February 10, 1992 - Unexpected heart attack & death of Alex Haley, in Seattle, Washington (USA), just before he was scheduled to speak. Memorial service in Memphis, Tennessee. Burial at Alex Haley Home & Museum, 200 South Church Street, Henning, Tennessee. Estate probated in Knoxville, Tennessee. /// According to Ken Libby, Haley's estate is sold at auction, and his farm in Clinton is purchased by an investment group which intended to convert it into a golf course.

After February 10, 1992 - Alex Haley's Grave, at Alex Haley Home & Museum, 200 South Church Street, Henning, Tennessee. Inscription on vertical black stone: "Alexander Murray Palmer Haley, Author of Pulitzer prize winning novel 'Roots.' Other Novels: Malcolm X, Palmer Town, Madam Walker, A Different Kind of Christmas, Henning, Fred Montgomery." Inscription on horizontal white stone: Cannot find.

February 1993 - "Alex Haley's Queen" (also known as "Queen") is a television miniseries that [airs] in three installments on February 14, 16 & 18 on CBS. The miniseries is an adaptation of the novel "Queen: The Story of an American Family" by Alex Haley & David Stevens. The novel is based on the life of Queen Jackson Haley, Haley's paternal grandmother. Alex Haley died in February 1992 before completing the novel. It was later finished by David Stevens & published in 1993. Stevens also wrote the screenplay for the miniseries."

1994 to Date (CDF at the Alex Haley Farm)

1994 - Children's Defense Fund (CDF) headed by Marian Wright Edelman purchases the Alex Haley Farm from the investment group. The CDF will make at least eight significant changes: Date? Adding ___ additional acres to the ___-acres acquired from the Haley estate, July 3, 1998 The Labyrinth, March 19, 1999 Langston Hughes Library (conversion of the cantilevered barn designed by Maya Lin), March 19, 1999 water table by Maya Lin (under the converted barn), July 2003 Prayer Garden, Date? "Leave No Child Behind" statue (by Jimilu Mason), July 23, 2004 Riggio-Lynch [Interfaith] Chapel (arc-shaped, designed by Maya Lin) & 2014 Maria Nhambu Collection of pan-African art. The chapel & library are gifts of Leonard & Louise Riggio.

April 2, 1995 - "Bitter 'Roots:' Kunta Kinte's Village Bashes Alex Haley: Descendants, Townspeople 'Expected To Get Rich,'" by Tina Susman, Seattle Times: "AP JUFFURE, Gambia - When writer Alex Haley came to Juffure to trace his roots [in 1967], he found a community of fishermen & farmers rarely seen by outsiders. Today, when tourists visit the village portrayed in Haley's blockbuster 'Roots,' they find a different Juffure: a place of bitterness & poverty, where begging & Haley-bashing are a way of life. Lots of tourists come, but that hasn't produced the boom Juffure's people had expected from 'Roots.' They aim their anger at Haley, the American descendant of slaves whose book sparked Gambian tourism & inspired people the world over to trace their ancestors..."

February 1998 - Alex Haley Statue, Alex Haley Heritage Square, Morningside Park, 1600 Dandridge Avenue, Knoxville, Tennessee (USA). Child friendly 13-foot bronze statue designed by sculptress Tina Allen [1955-2008] depicting Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley, author of the novel Roots, who lived in nearby Clinton, Tennessee. Weighs 4,200 pounds. Dedicated during Black History Month. "Weighs 4,200 pounds. Dedicated during Black History Month. Other amenities in the park include a play structure, water fountain & green space. The play structure was designed & built as part of a 'volunteer community built' concept spearheaded by the Kimberly Clark Corporation." Who "spearheaded" & financed the statue?

June 29, 1998-July 14, 2001 - George Williford Boyce Haley [1925-2015], one of two younger brothers of Alex Haley, serves as US Ambassador to The Gambia (political appointee of President Bill Clinton).

March 19, 1999 - Langston Hughes Library, CDF Haley Farm, Children's Defense Fund (CDF), 1000 Alex Haley Lane, Clinton, Tennessee (USA). Conversion by Maya Lin of old cantilevered barn into a modern library. /// The library was dedicated during the three-day National Symposium on the Arts & Scholarship. Among more than 200 persons attending the symposium & dedication were Marian Wright Edelman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dr. Maya Angelou, Dr. John Hope Franklin, Toni Morrison, Rita Dove (US poet laureate), Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Dean Myers, Nikki Giovanni, Donna Shalala (secreetary of HHS) & Alexis Herman (secretary of labor).
March 19, 1999 - A small black cubical water table (about 1 meter on each side) under the barn's overhang. Only photos found on-line are distant & inadequate. A plaque in the floor near the water table credits Maya Lin Studio [in NY City], Martella Associates & Leon Williams (contractor); No name or purpose is ascribed to the water table. This is the least known of Lin's signature line of water tables.

June 25, 1999 - Alex Haley Mosque & School Complex, Juffure (The Gambia). "A mosque & school opened in Juffure where [Alex] Haley traced back his paternal [sic] ancestry through genealogical research." /// "Members of the Nation of Islam traveled from Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baton Rouge, La., New Orleans, Nashville, Baltimore, Newark, Detroit, North Carolina, Virginia, London & other locales to attend the ceremony... As the delegation traveled up the mile long road leading from the dock to the mosque site, children shouted, 'Farrakhan, Farrakhan,' while elders had tearful eyes displaying their joy at what they were blessed to witness."

July 10, 1999 - The US Coast Guard honors Haley by naming the cutter USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39) after him. It was first commissioned as the USS Edenton (ATS-1), an Edenton-class salvage & rescue ship on 23 January 1971. Date? - The main galley at the US Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma at Petaluma, California, is named "Haley Hall" in Haley's honor. "Galley is the only Coast Guard Dining Facility on board the Training Center."

June 12, 2002 - Kunta Kinte - Alex Haley Memorial, City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland (USA). Child friendly bronze statues of Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley and three children. "Only memorial in the USA that commemorates the actual name and place of arrival of an enslaved African. Consists of three distinct areas: The Alex Haley sculpture group, Compass Rose, and Story Wall." Note boats in harbor.

July 18, 2004 - Maya Lin also designed the nearby Riggio-Lynch Interfaith Chapel. /// The arc shaped chapel is intended to evoke the CDF logo (right image) drawn by Maria Cote (age 7).

May 15, 2008 - Inagural 10 Year Celebration of the Alex Haley Statue, Alex Haley Heritage Square, Morningside Park, 1600 Dandridge Avenue, Knoxville, Tennessee (USA).

2008 - Interpretive Center at Alex Haley Boyhood Home & Museum (Alex Haley State Historic Site), 200 South Church Street, Henning, Tennessee (USA). Click here for museum website.

May 31, 2011 - "Recalling music and dinners with Alex Haley" by Robert Booker, Knoxville News Sentinel.

Date? - Roots Heritage Trail, Juffureh (The Gambia). Leads from interior to the Gambia River on route allegedly used by captured slaves just before boarding slave ships.
2011 - Kunta Kinteh Island, Juffureh (The Gambia). James Island renamed in 2011. Note ruin of Fort James in this air photo.

2014 - "Alex Haley's Roots: An Author's Odyssey" by Adam Henig. See Google Books for most of the text.

2014 - The Maria Nhambu Collection of pan-African art, artifacts & textiles is donated to the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Acquired over 40 years, it reflects [author] Maria Nhambu’s passionate commitment to sharing her love & appreciation of the artistry, talent & creative genius of Africa. "I want the art I love to touch people,' says Nhambu. "It should be displayed so that people are drawn to it. The art should be in everyday living & working spaces & speak to those who see it. At Haley Farm & the CDF Headquarters in Washington DC, the art will engage viewers on their own terms rather than seeing it in a museum where they are often told how to interpret it!" The collection, curated by the Rhode Island School of Design, complements the mission of CDF, the legacy of Alex Haley & the vision of Maria Nhambu. The Nhambu Collection is exhibited throughout the Haley Farm property in Clinton and the CDF Headquarters in hopes that visitors have many opportunities to encounter the art & be inspired in their work for justice and education." It includes the "amazing piece" called “Mother Africa” shown in the image.

November 25, 2015 - "The Redemption of Alex Haley" by Jack Neely, Knoxville Mercury. A review of "Alex Haley & the [two] Books that Changed a Nation" by UT professor Robert J. Norrell.

2016 - History Channel airs a remake of the miniseries "Roots." Haley appears briefly, portrayed by Tony Award winner Laurence Fishburne.

September 26, 2017 - Ted Lollis ("Peace Monuments Around the World") & Susan Ives (San Antonio Peace Center) visit Alex Haley Farm & obtain 7-page handout ("Historical Walking Tour of CDF Haley Farm") plus farm map from CDF business manager Ken Libby ( & 865-457-6466.

October 6-8, 2017 -38th Tennessee Fall Homecoming, Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Tennessee (USA).

October 27, 2017 - Annual East Tennessee Preservation Conference, hosted by CDF Alex Haley Farm, Clinton, Tennessee (USA). Flyer shows three signature structures: The White House (1830's), Langston Hughes Library (1999) & the Haley Lodge (1989).