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Alex Haley Wins the Pulitzer Prize Roots

This Day in Black History

In 1976, Alex Haley made history by winning the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The book tells the story of Kunta Kinte, a young man from Gambia who is kidnapped and brought to America as a slave, and his descendants who struggle to survive and thrive in a society that denies them their humanity. Through his meticulous research, vivid storytelling, and deep empathy for his ancestors, Haley created a work of art that transcends time and place and speaks to the universal human experience of struggle, triumph, and belonging.

Haley’s journey to writing Roots began with a conversation with his grandmother, who told him stories of his African ancestors and their enslavement in America. This sparked Haley’s curiosity and led him on a twelve-year research journey, tracing his family’s history back to Kunta Kinte and beyond. The result was a groundbreaking novel that challenged the prevailing myths and stereotypes about African-American history and culture.

Roots became an instant bestseller and a cultural phenomenon, inspiring a television miniseries that aired in 1977 and broke records for viewership and critical acclaim. The book and the series sparked conversations about race, identity, and history across the country, and opened up new avenues of inquiry and scholarship in African-American studies and genealogy.

At its core, Roots is a story of identity, legacy, and resilience. It explores how history shapes our lives, our sense of self, and the power of family and community to sustain us through even the darkest times. Through the characters of Kunta Kinte and his descendants, Haley gives voice to the experiences of millions of African-Americans who have struggled to claim their place in a society that has denied them their rights and their dignity.

In conclusion, Alex Haley’s Roots is a literary masterpiece that continues to inspire and challenge readers, writers, and scholars around the world. Through his artful storytelling and his commitment to accuracy and empathy, Haley created a work of enduring value and relevance that speaks to the deepest aspirations and struggles of the human spirit.


  • Haley, A. (1976). Roots: The Saga of an American Family. Doubleday.
  • “Alex Haley.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2023.
  • “Roots (novel).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Apr. 2023. Web. 20 Apr. 2023.