Alex Haley - African Americans, Career and Personal Life

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Alex Haley's Personal Details

Alex Haley was an American writer who rose to fame with his book ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’

InformationDetail
BirthdayAugust 11, 1921
Died onFebruary 10, 1992
NationalityAmerican
FamousAfrican American Authors, African Americans, Black Authors, Writers
SiblingsGeorge W. Haley
Known asAlexander Murray Palmer Haley
Universities
  • Alcorn State University
  • Elizabeth City State University
Birth PlaceIthaca
GenderMale
FatherSimon Haley
MotherBertha George Haley
Sun SignLeo
Born inIthaca
Famous asWriter
Died at Age70

// Famous Writers

Alex Haley's photo

Who is Alex Haley?

Alexander Murray Palmer "Alex" Haley was a Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American author best known for the book ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’. The book, which chronicled his ancestors' origins in Africa and their journey from slavery to freedom in America, played a major role in creating awareness about African-American history in the United States. His seminal work also kindled an interest in genealogy among Americans of many ethnic heritages. The son of a professor in New York, he grew up learning about how his father had bravely overcome the obstacles of racism. Alex Haley dropped out of college and enlisted in the United States Coast Guard when he was 18. It was while working there that he realized his love for writing and was paid by his fellow soldiers to write love-letters to their girlfriends. After the World War II, he transferred to the field of journalism in the US Coast Guard. He embarked into a career as a senior editor in a well-known magazine following his retirement. He also started writing in earnest and produced several critically acclaimed works like ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ and ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’, and won a special Pulitzer Prize for the latter.

// Famous African Americans

Childhood & Early Life

Alex Haley was born on August 11, 1921, in Ithaca, New York to Simon Haley and Bertha George. His father, a World War I veteran, was a graduate student in agriculture at Cornell University at the time of Alex’s birth and eventually became a professor. His mother worked as a teacher. Alex had two younger brothers and one sister.

After completing high school, he enrolled at Alcorn A&M College (Alcorn State University) in Mississippi when he was 15 years old. After spending a year there, he transferred to the Elizabeth City State College.

In spite of being an intelligent young man he was not much interested in academics and dropped out of college.

Career

In 1939, Alex Haley enlisted with the United States Coast Guard as an 18 year old. This marked the beginning of a 20-year-long military career.

He started his career as a mess attendant and was soon promoted to the rank of petty officer third-class in the rating of steward. During his enlistment he realized his love for writing. He was a talented writer and his fellow soldiers, impressed by his skills paid him to write love-letters to their girlfriends on their behalf. He also started submitting short stories and articles to magazines.

After the World War II he was transferred to the field of journalism in the US Coast Guard and became a petty officer first class in the rating of journalist by 1949.

Eventually he was promoted to Chief Journalist of the Coast Guard, a grade he held till his retirement in 1959.

Post his retirement he embarked on a full-fledged literary career. He was asked by the ‘Playboy’ magazine to conduct an interview with the famous trumpeter Miles Davis. The interview, published in 1962 was a huge success and he went on to interview several other prominent figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones and Malcolm X over the next few years.

He wrote his first book, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley’, in 1965. The book outlined the life and philosophy of Malcolm X, a famous human rights activist, and became an international bestseller, establishing Alex Haley as an acclaimed writer.

He published the novel, ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’, in 1976. The novel, based on his ancestral history, told the story of Kunta Kitne, an 18th-century African, sold into slavery in the United States and traced the lives of his alleged descendants in the U.S. down to the author himself.

The novel created a sensation at the time of its publication and sparked a greatly increased public interest in genealogy. It also spawned a television miniseries of the same name by ABC in 1977 which reached a record-breaking 130 million viewers.

He was accused of plagiarism by two authors following the success of the novel ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’. Eventually he admitted that some passages in his book had been copied from Harold Courlander’s 1967 novel ‘The African’. The two authors ultimately went for an out-of-court settlement.

He started working on a second historical novel in the late 1970s though he could not complete it before his death. The novel was later finished by David Stevens and was published as ‘Alex Haley's Queen’, in 1993.

Major Work

Alex Haley is best remembered as the author of the seminal historical novel, ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’. The book not only made him a much acclaimed author in world literature, but also spurred an interest in genealogy among Americans of different ethnicities. The book spent months on The New York Times Best Seller List and has been published in 37 languages.

Awards & Achievements

Alex Haley won a special Pulitzer Prize for the ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’ in 1977.

The NAACP bestowed upon him its Spingarn Medal for his exhaustive research and literary skill combined in Roots.

In 2002, he was posthumously awarded the Korean War Service Medal by the government of South Korea.

Personal Life & Legacy

His first marriage to Nannie Branch in 1941 ended in divorce in 1964. The same year he married Juliette Collins and this union too ended in divorce in 1972. He tied the knot for the third time with Myra Lewis but the couple separated later on. He had three children, a son and two daughters.

He died of a heart attack on February 10, 1992, at the age of 70, in Seattle, U.S.

// Famous Black Authors

Alex Haley awards

YearNameAward

Other

1966 - Anisfield-Wolf Book Award - The Autobiography of Malcolm X
1977 - Pulitzer Prize Special Citations and Awards - Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Alex Haley biography timelines

  • // 11th Aug 1921
    Alex Haley was born on August 11, 1921, in Ithaca, New York to Simon Haley and Bertha George. His father, a World War I veteran, was a graduate student in agriculture at Cornell University at the time of Alex’s birth and eventually became a professor. His mother worked as a teacher. Alex had two younger brothers and one sister.
  • // 1939
    In 1939, Alex Haley enlisted with the United States Coast Guard as an 18 year old. This marked the beginning of a 20-year-long military career.
  • // 1941 To 1972
    His first marriage to Nannie Branch in 1941 ended in divorce in 1964. The same year he married Juliette Collins and this union too ended in divorce in 1972. He tied the knot for the third time with Myra Lewis but the couple separated later on. He had three children, a son and two daughters.
  • // 1949
    After the World War II he was transferred to the field of journalism in the US Coast Guard and became a petty officer first class in the rating of journalist by 1949.
  • // 1959
    Eventually he was promoted to Chief Journalist of the Coast Guard, a grade he held till his retirement in 1959.
  • // 1962
    Post his retirement he embarked on a full-fledged literary career. He was asked by the ‘Playboy’ magazine to conduct an interview with the famous trumpeter Miles Davis. The interview, published in 1962 was a huge success and he went on to interview several other prominent figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones and Malcolm X over the next few years.
  • // 1965
    He wrote his first book, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley’, in 1965. The book outlined the life and philosophy of Malcolm X, a famous human rights activist, and became an international bestseller, establishing Alex Haley as an acclaimed writer.
  • // 1967
    He was accused of plagiarism by two authors following the success of the novel ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’. Eventually he admitted that some passages in his book had been copied from Harold Courlander’s 1967 novel ‘The African’. The two authors ultimately went for an out-of-court settlement.
  • // 1976
    He published the novel, ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’, in 1976. The novel, based on his ancestral history, told the story of Kunta Kitne, an 18th-century African, sold into slavery in the United States and traced the lives of his alleged descendants in the U.S. down to the author himself.
  • // 1977
    The novel created a sensation at the time of its publication and sparked a greatly increased public interest in genealogy. It also spawned a television miniseries of the same name by ABC in 1977 which reached a record-breaking 130 million viewers.
  • // 1977
    Alex Haley won a special Pulitzer Prize for the ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’ in 1977.
  • // 10th Feb 1992
    He died of a heart attack on February 10, 1992, at the age of 70, in Seattle, U.S.

// Famous African American Authors

Alex Haley's FAQ

  • What is Alex Haley birthday?

    Alex Haley was born at 1921-08-11

  • When was Alex Haley died?

    Alex Haley was died at 1992-02-10

  • Where was Alex Haley died?

    Alex Haley was died in Seattle

  • Which age was Alex Haley died?

    Alex Haley was died at age 70

  • Where is Alex Haley's birth place?

    Alex Haley was born in Ithaca

  • What is Alex Haley nationalities?

    Alex Haley's nationalities is American

  • Who is Alex Haley siblings?

    Alex Haley's siblings is George W. Haley

  • What was Alex Haley universities?

    Alex Haley studied at Alcorn State University, Elizabeth City State University

  • Who is Alex Haley's father?

    Alex Haley's father is Simon Haley

  • Who is Alex Haley's mother?

    Alex Haley's mother is Bertha George Haley

  • What is Alex Haley's sun sign?

    Alex Haley is Leo

  • How famous is Alex Haley?

    Alex Haley is famouse as Writer