BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Wednesday marks the 100th birthday of the late author, Alex Haley.
Haley died at the age of 70 on February 10, 1992, in Seattle but part of his work from his popular story about family history stemmed from Maryland.READ MORE: Investigation Underway Following Fatal Car Fire In Baltimore City
The Pulitzer-prize-winning author was best known for his historical work in the book “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” which was also turned into a miniseries. Haley traced and re-told the story of his ancestors’ journey from The Gambia, West Africa to America as slaves and their rise to freedom.
“The story of ‘Roots’ is how an African citizen who went out to find wood to build a drum for his brother was kidnapped was brought to America, Maryland… and through oral history was able to pass his story along until 200 something years later, his great, great, great-grandson wrote a book about it about how genealogy is worthwhile and how family history is worthwhile,” said Chris Haley, nephew of Alex Haley.
It was a landmark story that changed the way America views its own history.
“For many persons of African descent, talking about slavery was something that was shameful, it was harmful for your psyche, harmful for your self-respect, something you didn’t want to talk to your kids about,” said Haley. “When roots came out, both the book and the miniseries, it allowed people to think differently about it, to think about with pride, these people endured these injustices, this inequality and because of that we can celebrate the descendants who are here today.”
Chris Haley celebrated his uncle’s 100th birthday on Wednesday in Annapolis where Alex Haley’s quest to learn about his own family history was established.
“I’m the eighth-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte. Uncle Alex is the seventh-generation descendant of Kunta Kinte,” said Haley.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Maryland: More Than 700 New Cases & 10 Deaths Reported Sunday
“Years and years and years ago, my uncle was here who found the connection to the legacy of my enslavement ancestor in Annapolis, Maryland,” said Haley.
For generations, a story Haley’s ancestors shared through the family through oral history was finally confirmed in a 1767 Maryland Gazette newspaper ad of the Lord Ligonier, the British slave ship his ancestor, Kunta Kinte, was brought to the U.S from the Gambia.
The ad was found at the Maryland State Archives with the help of archivist, Pheobe Jacobson.
Chris Haley said the message of “Roots” was much bigger than his uncle’s own story.
“It was about his intention to express connection and connection between not only other individuals but connection and the importance of family,” said Haley
A powerful theme inspiring a nationwide interest in genealogy and preserving family history.
“I think that’s what uncle Alex really wanted us to know, that we’re all human figures and you can only get to that humanity by reaching out to each other,” said Haley.MORE NEWS: Walk To End Alzheimer's Saturday In Cockeysville Aims to Raise Awareness
To celebrate Haley’s work and life, local leaders will issue a proclamation and gift Haley’s family with a key to the city on August 14 at the Annapolis City Lock Dock.