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Roots is one man's effort to trace his ancestry back to his African roots, and to put a face to the history of the African American people.
Summary Of The Book
Roots resulted in a cultural phenomenon in the United States, kindling a deeper interest in African American history and heritage. It also forced the country to do a re-examination of its social and racial history. It made Americans look at where they stood on racial issues at the time the novel was published, in the late 1970s.
The novel sets out to trace the author's family history, back to the first member of the family to set foot in America, Kunta Kinte. Haley had heard stories about this man from his grandmother, a man she referred to as the African. The family had an oral tradition, passing on the tales of this man and his descendants, through each generation.
So, Haley was able to trace the stories from his grandmother to her father and her grandparents and thus trace his roots far back. Back to Kunta Kinte, who, the family stories said, lived in a place called Kamby Bolongo.
Two hundred years after his ancestor embarked on his unwilling journey, Haley stood on the same dock where Kunta Kinte is believed to have been put ashore, in America. Captured while he was chopping woods near his village, he was sold to slave traders and put on board a ship bound for unknown lands and a dark future.
Kunta Kinte is said to have passed on his story to his daughter, along with some words of the African dialect that he spoke. These descended through each generation, adding the story of their own generation as they passed it on.
Kunta Kinte had a daughter called Kizzy, who had a son called Chicken George. Chicken George was the son of his owner, his mother's owner, which was a common occurrence in those days. He was a reputed gamecock trainer who earned his independence long before slavery was abolished in America.
Roots later ran into controversy, with allegations of plagiarism brought against the author and many issues regarding historical inaccuracies. However, the significance of the work goes beyond the controversies. It created an awareness of the African heritage and gave a face to the history of millions of African Americans. Roots was later adapted for a television series.
About Alex Haley
Alex Haley was a writer who served in the American coast guard.
Other books by this author include The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Alex Haley was born in 1921 in Ithaca, New York. His father was a Professor at Alabama A&M University. Alex Haley was proud of his father's position and achievement, which would have required him to overcome a large number of obstacles in those days. Haley enlisted in the army as a mess attendant and saw active service during the Second World War. After the war, he applied to the Coast Guard for a transfer to the field of journalism. He retired as Chief Journalist of the Coast Guard, a position created specifically for him, in recognition of his writing skills. He had a distinguished career in the Coast Guard. He also won a Special Pulitzer Prize for Roots in 1977.