Who wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X?

Alex Haley, the most significant person I’ve met. It was 1976 and I did not want to meet him. To me, and many like me, he was just another trouble-making nigger. If that sounds rough, don’t forget Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were murdered (by white and black) for trying to unify blacks and give them an identity.

I met Haley when I was an advertising copywriter for Sibley’s department store. We attended weekly 7:00 A.M. presentations; introductions of new fashion or bedding lines for which we’d produce advertisements. Haley’s “Roots” had just come out and he’d be doing book signings at several of our stores. I was near the top of the list of “People who couldn’t care less.”

I received an education that morning. Alex Haley spoke of trying to trace his roots, through his slave forefathers, all the way back to Africa. In those days there was micro-fische. No computers, no faxes. That spells a lot of leg work, mailing, waiting, digging through dusty records, and dealing with people who were at best indifferent to some black guy trying to find where he came from.

Haley had the presence of a millionaire businessman. Imagine Bill Clinton speaking, at his best. Haley addressed us sleepy copywriters and artists as if we were the UN assembly. By his very nature he attributed that much integrity to us. He didn’t talk in color or race. He was interested in his roots in a way that drew us in and made us all interested in our own roots. He never said “um” or “I mean” and was clearly unacquainted with the term “hesitation.”

When he spoke about finally finding his slave great-grandmother listed on a will between “one flintlock rifle” and “one blanket,” his voice cracked with emotion. Which was okay because by that point there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

There were only a dozen of us at that talk and I met and chatted briefly with him afterwards. Alex Haley is intellectually and spiritually the tallest man I’ve ever met. I wish he were alive today.

Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

One Comment on “Who wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X?”

  1. Frank Paolo Says:

    Interesting post. One thing that JUMPS out is the N_____ word. I’m not being critical and unlike Mark Furman, I’d guess all of us have used it one time or another but I’m interested in the vulgarity of it.

    F____ isn’t really very vulgar these days although it’s probably not a good idea to drop it in front of polite company. The only words in the ‘Never say!’ category are the N_____ word and the C___ word. Not really going anywhere with this – just thought I’d say I find it interesting.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: