16 Apr:
Alex Haley’s Faction Phenomenon

When ‘Roots: The Saga of an American Family’ made novelist Alex Haley an international sensation, he revisited Juffure, Gambia – the village where he claimed his 18th-century ancestor Kunta Kinte had been captured into slavery. On 16th April, 1977, he was welcomed ‘home’ as a hero by the villagers.

But his hit novel had begun to attract criticism for blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction – a genre Haley came to refer to as ‘faction’ – relying primarily on oral sources that were hard to verify. And the following year, novelist Harold Courlander successfully sued Haley for having plagiarised passages from his 1967 novel, ‘The African’.

Further Reading:

• ‘Haley Visit Captivates Village Where ‘Roots’ Began’ (The New York Times, 1977): https://www.nytimes.com/1977/04/18/archives/haley-visit-captivates-village-where-roots-began.html

• ‘Is Roots a true and authentic story? Why Alex Haley’s book about slavery and family history is so controversial’ (Radio Times, 2017): https://www.radiotimes.com/tv/drama/is-roots-a-true-story-why-this-tale-of-slavery-and-family-history-is-so-controversial/

• ‘Roots author Alex Haley on the horror of slavery’ (CBC, 1977): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ6WRRwqql4

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