I’ve just finished reading: Roots by Alex Haley (1976)


I’ve been meaning to read this for some years now and last night I finished it.

This Pulitzer Prize winning book created an enormous stir when it was released in 1976 (bearing in mind that the 60s civil rights movement was still fresh in people’s minds & happening). A family history of a PoC had never really been written or seen prior to the books release and naturally it became a sensation.

The book is a one man’s “documentation” of his family history dating back to 1767 and the kidnapping of his ancestor Kunte Kinte. His subsequent harrowing voyage to America, his slavery and his descendants. Sadly, later we would learn that the first part of the book, detailing Kinte’s life in the village of Juffre, was largely plagiarised from a book called The African by Harold Courlander. Haley would later admit that passages had been copied unintentionally and history experts would also document that Haley’s research suffered badly from confirmation bias (for more information see here).

Setting the controversies aside however, this book’s importance in African American culture & history cannot be denied nor should it. This book isn’t so much fact but rather a historical novel and should be read as such. It’s an absorbing story, well told. So much so, despite knowing the story (I watched the TV series a while ago), I remained hooked, rooting for the characters. It gives an articulate voice to the countless, untold stories of millions of their harrowing experiences and lives. Stories that should never ever be forgotten from history.

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