Happy Birthday, Alex Haley

I read Alex Haley’s Roots when I was 12 years old with my Granny during summer break. I remember not wanting to go outside and play, so she told me I had to read a book if I was going to stay inside. My Granny had been a teacher/high school guidance counselor for over 50 years, so she had a huge book selection. I was standing there looking at the book shelf not knowing which book to choose, when my Granny stood beside me and said there was one book that she had always wanted her grandkids to read. She pulled out Alex Haley’s Roots. Being 12 years old, I didn’t know who Alex Haley was, nor did I know anything about genealogy/family history. My Granny told me that this was a book about family, love, tradition, hope, perseverance, and is a story about an American family that I would not learn about in school. She said this book was important because it tells the story of a family’s journey from Africa to America of which many African Americans don’t know personally.

So for the next couple of months when I was at my Granny’s we would read Roots. She would pick out chapters for me to read and sometimes she would read out loud to me. We didn’t actually read the entire book that summer. She made sure I read her favorite parts from the book. We talked about some of what I read, and she always answered my questions. But once the summer was over and school started we never talked about Roots again.

It was couple of years later that my Granny started developing Alzheimer’s. In the beginning she would have mood swings and get upset very easily, to calm her down I would often read to her either the Bible or Roots. Even when she didn’t remember me anymore, I would still read some of her favorite sections of Roots to her. I did eventually read the entire book. I’ve actually read it several times. Roots has become somewhat of my security blanket. I go to it anytime I need some extra encouragement, need to better my research direction, or when I want to feel closer to my Granny. It is because of Alex Haley and my Granny, Gladys Denson Mays, that my journey started and that it continues.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. litprof4 says:

    Happy birthday, Mr. Haley! Thank you, Trish, for remembering this marvelous researcher and writer who brought alive his ancestors’ stories. The book is amazing as well as the mini-series.


    1. Trisha says:

      He really opened the door for family history and researching to generations. I love the mini series as well. I watch them often when I need some inspiration.


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