Caswell County Genealogy

Share Print Bookmark
Haley, Alexander Murray Palmer

Haley, Alexander Murray Palmer

Male 1921 - 1992  (70 years)

Personal Information    |    Media    |    Notes    |    Sources    |    Event Map    |    All    |    PDF

  • Name Haley, Alexander Murray Palmer  [1, 2
    Birth 11 Aug 1921  Ithaca, New York Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Reference Number 18111 
    Death 10 Feb 1992  Seattle, King County, Washington Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I17768  Caswell County
    Last Modified 24 Feb 2024 

    Father Haley, Simon Alexander,   b. 8 Mar 1892, Savannah, Hardin County, Tennessee Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 19 Aug 1973, Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 81 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Palmer, Bertha George,   b. 1895, Henning, Lauderdale County, Tennessee Find all individuals with events at this locationd. Feb 1932, Normal, Madison County, Alabama Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 37 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Marriage 1920  Henning, Lauderdale County, Tennessee Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Reference Number 194000 
    Family ID F8237  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Living 
     1. Living
     2. Living
    +3. Haley, William Alexander,   b. 19 Nov 1945, Carteret County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 17 Dec 2012, Durham, Durham County, North Carolina Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 67 years)  [Father: natural]  [Mother: natural]
    Family ID F8239  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 24 Feb 2024 

    Family 2 Living 
     1. Living
    Family ID F8240  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 24 Feb 2024 

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBirth - 11 Aug 1921 - Ithaca, New York Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Alex Haley
    Alex Haley

  • Notes 
    • Alexander Murray Palmer Haley (1921-1992)

      Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York. He was the oldest child of Simon Alexander and Bertha Palmer Haley. At the time of his birth, his father was a graduate student at Cornell University and his mother was a music teacher.

      Author of the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. See: Roots.

      Note that the existence of and descendants attributed to Kunta (Toby) Kinte that run through Caswell County and eventually to author Alex Haley are based upon the novel written by Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

      While Haley claimed as fact the people and relationships set forth in his book, others have criticized his research as faulty. Moreover, he was required to settle plagiarism charges. Accordingly, proceed with caution in using this information, which is placed here for research purposes only. See: Roots; and Roots Revisited.

      Alex Haley, 70, Author of 'Roots,' Dies
      By Eric Pace, The New York Times

      Alex Haley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Roots: The Saga of an American Family," which chronicled his ancestors' origins in Africa and their passage from slavery to freedom in America, died yesterday at Swedish Hospital Medical Center in Seattle. He was 70 years old and had homes in Knoxville, Tenn., Norris, Tenn., and Seattle. He died of cardiac arrest, said a spokeswoman for the hospital, Jane Ann Wilder. Mr. Haley's son, William Alexander Haley, said at a news conference in Seattle yesterday that his father had apparently suffered a heart attack and been taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was scheduled to speak today at the Bangor Naval Submarine Base at Bremerton, Wash., 15 miles from Seattle.

      "Roots," which was published in 1976, spurred an interest in genealogy among Americans of many ethnic heritages. The ABC television mini-series fashioned from the book attracted millions of viewers early in 1977.

      Haley claims to have spent ten years researching his heritage for his historical novel, Roots, which in 1977 was adapted as a TV miniseries, and earned him a Pulitzer Prize and the Spingarn Medal for the book. A year later, his reputation was marred by an accusation of plagiarism. In 1978, author Harold Courlander charged in federal court that Haley, the author of Roots, had copied 81 passages from his novel. After a five-week trial in federal district court, Courlander and Haley settled the case, with Haley making a financial settlement of $650,000. Haley denied plagiarism but conceded that some passages in his book had apparently come from Courlander's novel, The African. He issued a statement that "Alex Haley acknowledges and regrets that various materials from The African by Harold Courlander found their way into his book Roots."

      In addition, the accuracy of those aspects of Roots which Haley claimed to be true has also been challenged. Although Haley acknowledged the novel was primarily a work of fiction, he did claim that he had identified his actual ancestor in the person of Kunta Kinte, an African taken from the village of Jufureh in what is now The Gambia. According to Haley, Kunta Kinte was sold into slavery, where he was given the name Toby, and, while in the service of a slavemaster named John Waller, went on to have a daughter named Kizzy, Haley's great-great-great grandmother. Haley also claimed to have identified the specific slave ship and the actual voyage on which Kunta Kinte was transported from Africa to North America in 1767. Historical marker in front of Alex Haley's boyhood home in Henning, Tennessee (2007)

      However, genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills and historian Gary B. Mills revisited Haley's research and concluded that those claims of Haley's were false. According to the Millses, the slave named Toby who was owned by John Waller could be definitively shown to have been in North America as early as 1762. They further said that Toby died years prior to the supposed date of birth of Kizzy. There have also been suggestions that Kebba Kanji Fofana, the amateur griot in Jufureh, who, during Haley's visit there, confirmed the tale of the disappearance of Kunta Kinte, had been coached to relate such a story.

      To date, Haley's work remains a notable exclusion from the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, despite Haley's status as history's best-selling African-American author. Harvard University professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the anthology's general editors, has denied that the controversies surrounding Haley's works are the reason for this exclusion. Nonetheless, Dr. Gates has acknowledged the doubts surrounding Haley's claims about Roots, saying, "Most of us feel it's highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village whence his ancestors sprang. Roots is a work of the imagination rather than strict historical scholarship."

      Alex Haley has been believed to be descended from John Graves of Northamptonshire, England & VA (gen. 270) as follows: John1, Thomas2, Nancy3, Thomas4 Lea, Chicken George5 Lea, Tom6 Murray, Cynthia7 Murray, Bertha George8 Palmer, Alexander Murray Palmer9 Haley. However, it appears that may not be the correct ancestry for his Thomas Lea, and that his line was probably descended from a brother of the Isabella Lea who married John Graves and the William Lea who married Nancy Graves (both children of Thomas Graves, b. 1691). Alex Haley is best known for his book, Roots, which was made into a very popular television special on ABC.

      He was born in Ithaca, New York on August 11, 1921, and reared in Henning, Tennessee. The oldest of three sons of a father who was a college professor of agriculture and a mother who taught grade school, Haley graduated from high school at fifteen and attended State Teacher's College in Elizabeth City, North Carolina for two years. He did not excel at school or college. At the urging of his father, he then enlisted in the United States Coast Guard as a mess attendant, 3rd Class, in 1939.

      A voracious reader, Haley began writing short stories while working at sea, but it took eight years before small magazines began accepting some of his stories. By 1952, the Coast Guard had created a new rating for Haley, chief journalist, and he began handling United States Coast Guard public relations. In 1959, after 20 years of military service, he retired from the Coast Guard and launched a new career as a freelance writer.

      The Autobiography of Malcolm X was his first major work. It appeared in 1965 and had immense effect on the black power movement in the United States. The work that made him famous was his book RootsRoots and the television series based on it. In 1977 Roots won the National Book Award and a special Pulitzer Prize. Roots has been translated into 37 languages, and sold more than one million copies in the first year, and a total of 6 million copies in hardcover and millions more in paperback. The blockbuster television mini series "Roots: The Saga of an American Family," was broadcast on ABC television in 1977, and was watched by an estimated 130 million viewers.

      Haley worked to promote literacy, adult literacy especially, and participated in programs that encouraged young people to remain in school.

      He died February 10, 1992, of a heart attack.

      Source: Alex Haley (Graves Family Association)

      Social Security Death Index
      Name: Alexander P. Haley
      SSN: 561-54-9239
      Last Residence: 37920 Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee
      Born: 11 Aug 1921
      Died: 10 Feb 1992
      State (Year) SSN issued: California (1956-1957)

      Washington Death Index, 1940-1996
      Name: Alexander P Haley
      Date of Death: 9 Feb 1992
      Place of Death: Seattle
      Age: 70
      Estimated birth year: abt 1922
      Residence: Seattle
      Gender: Male
      SSN: 561-54-9239
      Certificate: 003122

  • Sources 
    1. Details: Waller Family Website.

    2. Details: Haley Family Tree.