Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Feb 9, 2014

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Alexander Murray Palmer Haley. Haley’s quest to learn more about his family history resulted in his writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Roots: The Sage of an American Family."

The book has been published in 37 languages, and was made into the first week-long television miniseries, viewed by an estimated 130 million people. "Roots" also generated widespread interest in genealogy.

His writing career began after he entered the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. Haley was the first member of the U.S. Coast Guard with a Journalist designation. In 1999 the U.S. Coast Guard honored Haley by naming a Coast Guard Cutter after him. Haley’s personal motto, “Find the Good and Praise It,” appears on the ship’s emblem. He retired from the military after 20 years of service, and then continued writing.

Out of the service, Haley tried his hand at journalism in the private sector. His first successful article was an interview that appeared in Playboy Magazine in 1962. Haley wrote many well-received playboy interviews. He next worked on "The Autobiography of Malcolm X." Published in 1965, it became Haley’s first major book.