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Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 2, 2015

Review: Biography makes case for legacy of 'Roots' author Alex Haley
By Jim Higgins

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2015

Alex Haley was a working freelance writer, not an ideologue. Yet he wrote two of the 20th century’s chief texts of African-American consciousness: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and the saga “Roots.” The latter was adapted for a blockbuster TV miniseries.

In “Alex Haley: And the Books That Changed a Nation,” Robert J. Norrell describes the making, often messy, of these seminal books and their powerful impact on American culture. Norrell is a professor of history at the University of Tennessee and author of “Up from History: The Life of Booker T. Washington.”

Born in small-town Tennessee, Haley (1921-’92) joined the Coast Guard in 1939 as a “mess boy” and later cook. He had liked writing but hadn’t envisioned it as a possible career.

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