On August 11, 1921, Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was born in Ithaca, New York. Alex Haley would become one of the best-selling American authors in history.
 
Haley wrote about the struggles and triumphs of the African American experience. He conducted extensive interviews with influential leaders such as Miles Davis and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was also the ghostwriter for the groundbreaking Autobiography of Malcolm X, about the legendary civil rights leader.
 
Haley is most well-known for his monumental novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a fictionalized account of his own ancestry. Roots traces Haley’s family from its origins in what is now Gambia; through kidnapping, transport, and enslavement in the United States; the Civil War; Reconstruction; and the establishment of the ancestral Haley family home in Tennessee.  
 
Roots was developed into a phenomenally successful television miniseries. It also inspired a passionate interest in genealogy and American history. The novel ends with "the hope that this story of our people can help to alleviate the legacies of the fact that preponderantly the histories have been written by the winners."
account
Noun

oral or written description of events.

alleviate
Verb

to relieve, unburden, or make easier.

ancestry
Noun

family (genealogical) or historical background.

author
Noun

person who writes.

civil rights
Plural Noun

set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.

Civil War
Noun

(1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

conduct
Verb

to transmit, transport, or carry.

develop
Verb

to expand or grow.

enslave
Verb

to totally control.

establish
Verb

to form or officially organize.

Noun

group of organisms that come from the same ancestors and share similar characteristics. Family is also a classification in chemistry and math.

fictionalize
Verb

to make up or turn into imagination.

genealogy
Noun

study of a family's ancestry, origins, and history.

ghostwriter
Noun

person who writes material attributed to another person.

groundbreaking
Adjective

innovative or pioneering.

influential
Adjective

important; having the ability to lead the opinions or attitudes of others.

kidnap
Verb

to hold a person hostage, usually for ransom.

legendary
Adjective

famous, heroic, or celebrated.

Malcolm X
Noun

(Malcolm Little, 1925-1965) American civil rights leader.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Noun

(1929-1968) American pastor and civil rights leader.

Miles Davis
Noun

(1926-1991) American jazz trumpeter and composer.

monumental
Adjective

very large, serious, and important.

novel
Noun

fictional narrative or story.

phenomenal
Adjective

very impressive.

preponderant
Adjective

prevailing, or greater in force or influence.

Reconstruction
Noun

(1865-1877) period during which the states formerly belonging to the Confederate States of America were transformed and integrated back into the United States following the Civil War.

transport
Verb

to move material from one place to another.

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