City of Annapolis to Inaugurate ‘Alex Haley Day’ on the Author’s 100th Birthday at City Dock

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Sculpture of the writer Alex Haley with three children surrounding him while he reads them a book.
Alex Haley Sculpture at the Annapolis City Dock. Photo: Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation

Annapolis, MD (August 9, 2021) – The City of Annapolis will commemorate journalist and   author Alex Haley with an “Alex Haley Day” public ceremony at City Dock at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 14. The occasion is to honor Haley’s centennial birth date: Aug. 11. 

Haley is known as the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody award-winning television mini-series, “Roots, the Saga of an American Family,” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and numerous articles and interviews including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Miles Davis, Muhammed Ali and other prominent Americans.

At the City Dock ceremony, Mayor Gavin Buckley will proclaim “Alex Haley Day,” and present a Key to the City to the Haley family. Alex Haley’s nephew, Director of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland at the Maryland State Archives, Chris Haley, will offer remarks. Other speakers will include Del. Shaneka Henson, Hon. Carl Snowden and spoken-word poet Marcus Hayes. Erica Griswald will host the event. 

“It is an honor to commemorate Alex Haley’s 100th birthday in Annapolis,” said Mayor Gavin Buckley. “He contributed brilliantly in the areas of literature, culture, and African-American genealogical research. We are proud to proclaim Alex Haley Day in the City of Annapolis.”

“Despite the pandemic, we are proud that this event emphasizes Alex Haley’s commitment to the importance of family and community connection against all odds. It is always worthwhile to find the good and praise it.” Alex Haley’s nephew, Chris Haley, and niece, Andrea Blackstone said. Andrea added, “Uncle Alex considered Annapolis so vital to the story of Roots as he continued to visit this City years after the book and miniseries premiered.” 

“Alex Haley’s two greatest achievements, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ and ‘Roots’ became and remain an essential source for understanding systemic racism and race,” said Carl Snowden, convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders. “We are deeply indebted to Mr. Haley who understood the power of the written word”.”

About Alex Haley

Alex Haley was born August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York. After a 20-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard, he began writing long-form interviews and articles for national magazines. In 1965, he ghost wrote“The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which remains one of the most influential non-fiction books in American literature. 

In 1976, after a dozen years of genealogical research, Haley published a novel of his family’s story, “Roots: the Saga of an American Family.” This is where Annapolis comes in. Haley’s research indicated he was a seventh generation descendent of Kunta Kinte, an enslaved person kidnapped in the Gambia and sold at auction steps from Annapolis’ City Dock. Roots not only won a Pulitzer Prize, it became a TV miniseries that reached 130 million viewers. Roots sparked an interest in African-American genealogy that has only grown. 

In 1992, a few weeks after Haley’s death, Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and Aldermen Sam Gilmer and Carl O. Snowden created a committee to design a memorial to Haley at the location where the ship that brought Kunta Kinte to Annapolis had landed. According to a 1992 Baltimore Sun article describing the inspiration for the memorial:

“Mr. Haley said that on Sept. 29, 1967, ‘I felt I should be nowhere else in the world except standing on a pier at Annapolis,’ exactly 200 years after the Lord Ligonier docked. As he stared seaward, Mr. Haley wrote, ‘I found myself weeping.’

The memorial remains today, a statue of Haley seated on a bench and reading to three children gathered at his feet. The statue is not Annapolis’ only memorial to Haley and his literary and genealogical legacy. The annual Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival (this year on Sept. 25, 2021) continues at City Dock and includes food, music, and artisan vendors along with heritage and history exhibits of the African Diaspora. The annual commemoration of Kunta Kinte’s arrival in Annapolis will occur at the beginning of that day. 

On August 11, 2021, Chris Haley will present a virtual lecture, “Celebration of Alex Haley.” Visit Historic Annapolis at Annapolis.org for more information and tickets. A genealogical workshop on September 18th will take place as part of Banneker Douglass Museum’s Freedom Bound Exhibit events. 

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