And though the book was clearly not a work of history and did not even need to be a work of simple nonfiction, the essential truth of elements of the narrative, especially Haley’s relationship to Kunta Kinte, seemed very important both to the author and to critics who questioned it. But ‘s troubled literary status, while a serious issue, is certainly no good explanation for scholars not paying more attention to the book. Haley had designated the singer and activist Anne Romaine, who had worked at the Alex Haley Museum in Henning, Tennessee, to be his official biographer in the early 1980s.
We historians seem to have been particularly inattentive. But before she could complete her work, she died suddenly of a burst appendix in 1995, just three years after Haley himself passed away. Flyers for @Ideas_History #USIH2019 are starting to make their way around campus @The New School Can’t wait to for so many smart minds to come together in NYC for incredible #USIH keynotes, plenaries, podcasts and MORE!
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Initially, historians complained about some background details in the narrative: Virginia plantations growing cotton as their primary crop in the 1760s or characters talking about Lincoln’s beard in the 1850s (when the future President was clean shaven).
But by 1977, questions had emerged about Haley’s genealogy itself, especially his connection to – and portrait of – the book’s most striking and significant character, Kunta Kinte.
I mention all of this because, given its enormous popularity and cultural significance at the time, has received surprisingly little scholarly attention. Some of this inattention can be attributed to problematic aspects of the book itself.
Almost from the moment it appeared in print, scholars began to question aspects of the story tells.
To those of us who were kids when it first aired, the miniseries’ images of slavery were formative.
The book remains in print and seems to continue to be read (it has close to three hundred reviews on Amazon.com).