Alex Haley was Voted the #16 Favorite Author of the 20th Century
Alex Haley (1921 - 1992) Journalist, writer; born in Ithaca, N.Y. He grew up in Henning, Tenn., studied at Elizabeth City (N.C.) Teachers' College (1937-39), and became a journalist while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard (1939-59). Retiring from the service, he established himself in Los Angeles as a free-lance writer, distinguished by his Playboy interviews. He first gained some national attention as the collaborator-editor of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965). His highly acclaimed work, Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976, Pulitzer Prize) turned out to be a mixture of fact and fiction but was definitely based on his African-American roots; he had spent 12 years researching his ancestry and claimed to trace it to a Kunte Kinte, brought as a slave to America from Gambia in 1767. The book was the basis of a phenomenally successful television miniseries (1977), for which he received a special Pulitzer Prize and the Spingarn Medal. A sequel, Queen (1993), also appeared as a book and television miniseries.