Alex Haley, born in 1921, in Ithaca, N.Y., gained national acclaim for Roots, the saga of his family from slavery to American plantation, which became an award-winning mini-series. He brilliantly detailed the brutal transatlantic slave trade bringing to life such ancestors as Kunta Kinte, Miss Kizzy, and Chicken George. He also wrote the Autobiography of Malcolm X. In an interview, he told me he had suffered a compulsion to jump overboard from a ship and drown because of fears he would never complete Roots. In And Still WE Rise he shared how he was able to move from the depths of suicide to confidence in himself and in his art, something you ought to read. One of the most memorable experiences I had with him was when a writers club in Bexley Ohio honored Haley and myself. Bexley was a place where as a child I went to work with my mother. We were not allowed to enter the front door which had humiliated me. But there I was being honored alongside one of the world’s best writers. Amazing. Haley died in 1992.
Read more about Alex Haley in our exclusive interview only available in my book, And Still We Rise.