Former Gambian Ambassador to the United States, Ousman Sallah, will on Friday be among special panelists in honor of Alexander Murray Palmer Haley’s 100th birthday. The Panel will host the writer’s family members, close friends, and acquaintances to share unknown reflections of their relationship with Alexander Murray Palmer Haley, at Calvary United Methodist Church, on 301 Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis.
Malick L. Manga – the son of Ebou Manga, who served as the chief Gambian technical adviser for the book and mini-series “Roots” and “Roots: The Next Generations” – will also add insight about behind-the-scenes steps Haley took to craft a literary masterpiece.
“The father of modern genealogy,” Alexander Murray Palmer Haley, was born in Ithaca, New York, on Aug. 11, 1921. The late writer of two of the most significant works related to African American experiences in the world – “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and “Roots” – left a priceless legacy.
The evening will begin with a reception and meet-and-greet in Calvary Church’s Fellowship Hall. Although Haley was an iconic figure, it is lesser-known who he was as a person.
Carl Snowden, a prominent local and state civil rights figure, will moderator for Friday’s Alex Haley Legacy Roundtable Discussion.
“Alex Haley and Malcolm X provided a new framework on how African Americans view themselves,” Snowden said. “They changed the paradigm and made all of us proud of our African ancestry.”
Although significant points are that Haley served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard and began his writing career in the military, these achievements are lesser-known. On July 10, 1999, a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter was recommissioned as the USCGC Alex Haley to honor him.
“Alex Haley is recognized as the forefather of the Coast Guard’s Public Affairs Specialist rating,” said U.S Coast Guard Master Chief Ryan Doss. “Today’s Public Affairs Specialists still perform the role of the military journalist as Chief Alex Haley did when his work led to the founding of the Coast Guard Journalist rating. Every year we honor Alex Haley’s legacy and lasting impact on our service by awarding our top communicators with the Chief Journalist Alex Haley Award for outstanding achievement in writing and visual storytelling.”
The intention of “Roots” has always been to inspire togetherness and identity. In an interview with his former employer, Playboy Magazine, Haley mentioned, “My fondest hope is that ‘Roots’ may start Black, white, brown, red, yellow people digging back for their roots. Man, that would make me feel 90 feet tall – to think that I was the impetus for that!”
The Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival, held at the City Dock and Susan Campbell Park, is another testament to Haley’s noteworthy contribution to American culture and history. The annual celebration of Kunta Kinte’s arrival in Annapolis will occur at 10 a.m. on Saturday in Susan Campbell Park. It is a short walk from the area where Haley is memorialized.
On Dec. 9, 1999, the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial was dedicated and unveiled in Maryland’s state capital. Listed online as one of Annapolis’s Top Ten Tourist Attractions, the Memorial annually attracts millions of visitors.
It is also telling that the most recent parades and demonstrations meant to promote racial reconciliation and social injustice began or ended there. Keanu Smith-Brown, a local activist and candidate for Ward 3 alderman in Annapolis, said that individuals who meet “at the Alex Haley statue recognize his spirit in the symbol.”
As many seek to keep Haley’s spirit alive, the roundtable event will offer rare insight in a public forum. Yet, Haley’s legacy is more profound than many realize. It is time for the world to hear more about it.