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Alex Haley Admitted Parts of Roots was Plagerized

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It is interesting how many people have no idea that scores of passages from Alex Haley's book of was lifed from The African, by Harold Courlander,  The except below is directly from the 30th anniversary of Roots.

 

roots-controversy.jpg

 

This Dick Gregory says Alex did not write The Autobiograhy of Malcolm X.

 

 

What is so astonishing to me is how few people know this or why it even matters.

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I think think I can safely say that many African Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans became interested in their West African origins after reading Roots and then seeing the Mini-series based on the book, and that they felt validated in cherishing the oral tradition/memories passed down from their elders. In fact, I read the book with my father at the age of nine--at that time, it was the longest book I'd ever read, and I loved it. I own two copies of it. I still love it, despite the controversy, because it is very emotionally moving and it's a great read.

 

That said, however, the problem of Haley's plagiarism points to a larger, serious issue that I and (others) have seen with black Americans: the tendency to pass along information as fact-- information that may or may not be erroneous and undocumented--without double checking. I've done this myself, and unfortunately, in print, and now that I have skills in historical research, I'm very embarrassed. So Haley's plagiarism--whether intentional or not--solidifies this problem, and because his is quite possibly the most famous book written on the intergenerational legacy of slavery, it supports that it's "okay" to just repeat without checking--and it's not okay. It's not okay at all. 

 

Although Dr. Walker Alexander's court case was thrown out, I must say that Roots was very similar to Jubilee in certain ways. But the problem was that Jubilee is very similar to many published slave narratives as well! Because of this, I would suggest that any contemporary novelist/memoirist writing about slavery should include a "suggested reading" in the back of the book, instead of pretending that perceptions of slavery are not greatly informed by the narratives. 

 

Take care,

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

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