Photograph by University of Texas at Arlington Photograph Collection (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Alex Haley

(1921 - 1992)

Born in Ithaca, New York, Alex Haley left college to enlist in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he spent twenty years, serving during World War II and becoming the branch’s first chief journalist. In the 1960s he worked for Reader’s Digest and Playboy and sat down with Malcolm X for the interviews that would later be turned into The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He plumbed his own family’s history with the 1976 publication of his novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family (originally marketed as nonfiction until scholars pointed out its many inaccuracies). Roots was turned into a miniseries a year later; more than half of U.S. households with TVs tuned in to watch the last episode.

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