The Foundation

Our History

The Beginning: The “Roots” of the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation

Alex Haley Sculpture

Alex Haley Sculpture

Alex Haley first learned of his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte, while living with his maternal grandparents in Henning, Tennessee. According to family history, Kunta Kinte landed with others who were enslaved in “Naplis.”

After years of research, Alex’s quest to uncover his family history led him to Annapolis, Maryland, where it is believed that the African, Kunta Kinte, a Gambian, arrived aboard the cargo ship Lord Ligonier on September 29, 1767.   Kunta Kinte and many of his descendants spent their lives in slavery. But the indomitable spirit of Alex Haley’s ancestors and their strong sense of family helped them survive slavery and its aftermath.

Alex began telling his story at a time of great racial tension. His mission was to infuse pride in his people, many of whom knew only that their ancestors had been enslaved.

The resulting book Roots and the television mini-series struck a responsive chord with millions of people around the world. By the end of the 1977 mini-series broadcast, three out of every four American households with televisions were tuned into the program.  The book, Roots, published three years prior to the series in a condensed version by Reader’s Digest, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award. Since then, the book has been published in 37 languages.

Alex Haley died unexpectedly in 1992, but the international story of Kunta Kinte and Roots lives on.