Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York, on 11th August, 1921. He studied at the Elizabeth City Teacher's College in North Carolina before deciding to serve in the United States Coast Guard (1939-59). While in the Coast Guard he began writing short stories but it was eight years before any of his work was published.
After retiring from the Coast Guard he managed to develop a career in journalism. This included work with the Reader's Digest magazine. He also carried out interviews for Playboy Magazine. His interview with Malcolm X in 1962 was later used as the basis of the book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965).
Haley's most popular work was his novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976). The book grew out of stories told by his grandmother of her family's life in West Africa. Although criticised by reviewers for factual inaccuracies, Roots was incredibly popular, selling 1.6 million copies in the first six months after publication. In 1977 Haley won the Pulitzer Prize and Springarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).
Roots was was adapted for television in 1977. During the course of the eight-night series, Roots was viewed by more than 130 million people. A sequel, Roots: The Next Generations, was shown in 1979. Alex Haley died in Seattle on 10th February, 1992.