Alex Haley’s Roots Beginnings

By Diane Haddad Premium

Alex Haley's Home

The front porch of his maternal grandparents’ Henning, Tenn., home is where author Alex Haley often heard stories of his family’s roots.

The 1919 house where Roots author Alex Haley said he first heard stories of his family’s African heritage has become a museum.

Roots, published in 1976, was the culmination of Haley’s 10 years of research and travel to Africa. The book and the television miniseries based on it are credited with sparking a surge of genealogy interest in the 1970s. Haley later conceded that passages of his book had come from The African, a novel by Harold Courlander, and researchers found major inaccuracies in his genealogical claims. But historians including Henry Louis Gates Jr. say the value in his work was capturing the imaginations of those who thought tracing their roots was impossible.

Haley grew up in Ithaca, NY, but spent his first five years and later summers in the 10-room bungalow his maternal grandfather, Will E. Palmer, built in Henning, Tenn. The house features family memorabilia, and a new interpretive center houses personal artifacts, such as the Emmy Haley won for the “Roots” miniseries, genealogy workshop space and a research room. Haley is buried in front of the home.

From the March 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.