Black History Month—The "Roots" Hoax
The Roots Hoax
Black writer Alex Haley (1921-1992) made a great deal of money from his 1976 book “Roots” and the television min-series that followed a year later.  The book purported to be the true story of Haley’s slave ancestors.  He followed a family oral tradition all the way back to Africa where he met a tribal wise man whose orals traditions matched Haley’s: Slave traders snatched distant ancestor Kunta Kinte and hauled him off to America. “Roots” goes on for 700 pages and six generations of black resistance to white oppression.
The book won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, and was issued as a Reader’s Digest condensed book.  It was published in 37 languages and has been used in courses at approximately 500 colleges.  There is even a cliff notes-like Novels For Students version for scholars in a hurry, and the book is still promoted as a true story.  In fact, early parts of the book are worse than invention; they are lifted straight out of a 1967 novel called “The African” by a white author, Harold Courlander. Courlander sued Haley or plagiarism in 1978, forced him to admit he had copied long passages, and collected $650,000 in damages. 
This, however, has done almost nothing to tarnish Haley’s reputation.  By the time of the suit, “Roots” was already a cultural icon and a source of pride for black Americans.  Judge Robert Ward, who presided over the plagiarism case, urged Courlander to keep quiet since the truth would be too great a blow to black pride.  The co-sponsor of the Annapolis “slavery walk” in September, 2004 was none other than the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, whose purpose is to “encourage greater study and awareness of African-American culture, history, archaeology and genealogy.” 
(From American Renaissance, November, 2004)