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AfriGeneas Books~Authors~Reviews Forum

Re: Alex Haley's Roots: A Novel or History?

Elizabeth Shown Mills and her husband Gary Mills researched Roots to determine whether or not they could authenticate the lineage. Sadly, they couldn't. According to their research, Haley didn't actually trace his lineage back to Africa. He couldn't even get to the 18th century. The Mills' published articles in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography many years ago that discussed their findings and the numerous discrepancies in his story.

Many people mistaken Haley for a genealogist when he was in fact a writer. Unfortunately he produced a work that people readily identified with and accepted as gospel without first checking to see if it was accurate. It happens often when people get caught up in the zeal of their family's history. However, as genealogists we need to adhere to professional standards of research and back up our stories with documentation when we can. That the Mills couple found too many discrepancies to accept much of Haley's story, and the fact that he settled lawsuits, leads credence to their being something not quite right with his story.

What Alex Haley did to the field of genealogy is amazing. He inspired people around the globe, everyday people, to search for their ancestors. The genealogical industry would probably not be close to what it is today had he not inspired so many people. One of Alex Haley's nephews is an archivist at the Maryland State Archives. Haley's relatives and others formed The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation that sponsors an annual Kunta Kinte Festival in Annapolis, Maryland, amongst other cultural events.

Alex Haley inspired me and changed the course of my life. I am a salaried genealogist--there aren't many of us in this country! However the lesson I've learned from his experience, is to not only record the oral history, but to go several steps further and DOCUMENT that history.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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