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Prohibited Literature in America (2) Roots

Reading time: 10 minutes

Roots: The Saga of an American Family written by contemporary American author Alex Haley. In this story, he depicts the life of his family and ancestors. The central message of this story is poor situation of African Americans and the expression of sufferings and shortcomings of their lives during and after slavery. In a closer look, the author introduces and condemns the concepts of racial discrimination, slavery, forced labor, and the domination of others. This half- Documentary work, written in novel form and have a realistic expression, begins with the birth of the main protagonist of the story, Kunta Kinte, in a Muslim village on the African continent. He grew up with a traditional culture and lived a quiet, carefree life with his family and tribe. But the tragedy begins where the slave merchants take him by surprise and kidnap him. He, along with others, is brought to the United States in the worst condition by slave merchant ships and sold. Kunta Kinte suffers a lot in the United States. He, who has lived freely and honorably before, has to work from morning till night, and he has to see his wage in the hands of others. He could not speak English at first and was humiliated by other black slaves, so everyone withdrew from him. A bound Muslim, he believes that these slaves have strayed from their roots and become servile, but are gradually learning English and realizing that they have never been to Africa and have been enslaved. Stan Margulies, producer, and four American directors made a serial based on story text that aired in January 1977 on ABC. The Roots TV serial shows the life of Alex Haley’s family until the American Civil War. In addition, another TV serial called Roots, the next generation is based on the writings of Alex Haley and his collaboration, which deals with the events of the author’s family after the American Civil War. Alireza Farahmand, the Persian translator of The Roots Book, wrote in the introduction: “Roots are always the most invisible, fundamental and important part of the tree … I think the root concept from Alex Haley’s point of view is that all blacks and slaves, from Africa, this beating heart of the earth, have been uprooted and planted elsewhere. They went elsewhere. The roots are the black people that that brought the tree of independence and the greatness of America’s economic to this level of growth and prosperity. But the point is, the deeper they went, the whites go higher, and the more their foliage grew; “And it is a pity that no fruit from this fruitful garden was given to the founders and gardeners of this tree.”

In the final sections of the book, Alex Haley gives a brief description of himself, discusses how he achieved the story of the protagonists, and reveals his motives for writing a biography of his family and ancestors.

Haley has been repeatedly criticized and criticized by the media for his book; this can be seen in his letters to two of his critics. Individuals who are charged with plagiarism but whose case is dismissed because they agree with the government. He complains about the flow and thought that used to bother his relatives, and now they are harassing the writer who narrates the previous oppression. Marginalization for the best-selling work “Roots” could be the strongest tool to reduce its impact and make society’s thoughts skeptical of the facts. A tool that was naturally in the hands of those who the tip of the arrow of criticism of Haley’s story was toward them and their policies. This marginalization was promoted by the media.

In his letters, he complains about the behavior of the Western media and the oppression they are inflicting on his real and painful view, he speaks about the Sunday Times of London and the New York Times, of his ridicule by the BBC, of ​​his trial, of the efforts to increase pressure on him, he complains, although he was alone all those years and no media outlet was willing to shout at him. He criticizes the role of some institutions and the media in questioning his book and creating margins for it. He accidentally raises these criticisms in response to two literary thieves and plaintiffs, and criticizes the discrimination in dealing with them in the face of accusations.

Alex Haley writes letters to Stephen E. Ambrose (American historian and historian) and Doris Kearns Goodwin (American historian, political commentator and Pulitzer Prize -winning historian) defending his book and in this letter, he defends his book and responds to their statements on the sidelines for himself and his book now was the time for Haley to criticize them. This letter does not have a separate spirit from the book “Roots” and is the cry of people like Haley who does not fit in a book. Oppression has never ended. You can read the text of his letter below:

From Alex Haley

To: Ambrose and Kearns

I can guess how you feel. Do whatever you want. I was destroyed by the newspapers, the Sunday Times of London and the New York Times. I was ridiculed in the BBC documentary. I was ridiculed by Pulitzer Chairman, Russell Baker, twice summoned to court, and spent millions of dollars defending my reputation.

But don’t worry. After the “literary scandal”! Life goes on. They accused me of copying the original design and characters of The Roots from “The African” Harold Courlander novel, forging my family genealogy, and attributing it to the Gambia in the eighteenth century. None of this was real.

I have had bad days, some of which have been much worse, such as the day I was accused of perjury, the day I was called to court to defend the origins of the story, or the time when the Pulitzer Board canceled my special award.

When I went to Tennessee to deliver my writing, I came across documents that they claimed I had forged the main character, Kunta Kinte, just as Janet Cooke had forged a 6-year-old drug dealer in the Washington Post, although Pulitzer in the last 60 years, have been no blacklisted members, fortunately they have not been able to cancel my award.

Although I have written one of the best-selling books, my work has not been recorded in Norton elite, an African-American literature edited by my friend Skip Gates. Of course, he’s not my only unfriend. John Hope Franklin, a former director of my institute, criticized me in Immerge magazine. John Hopkins Clarke, my coach at the School of Afrocentrism, called me a “fake” and a “swindler.” The white and black genealogists knocked me to the ground like a gravestone. The Society of Journalists and Writers canceled its Alex Haley Awards.

And the worst insult was “Reader’s Digest magazine”. I was with them for 30 years. They organized my trip to Africa and obtained permission for the first serial of Roots. I was their friend and ambassador. Digest knew I wasn’t writing a “fake” story, and I wasn’t doing anything without research. However, they jeopardized the fame of The Roots, until “The Village Voice” found evidence in my archives that proved my legitimacy.

So I came back with more fame. So you can too. The Coast Guard will not be named after you. Your citizens will resist the installation of your bronze statue in the city squares. Your failure to be appointed by the presidency as ambassador to the Gambia has been a great opportunity. But, if you act like me, you may find peace. Did you see the anniversary of the “Roots” serial on NBC TV Network? There was no mention of plagiarism.

So far, just looking at newspapers and the media, your actions have been influential, deny, deny, deny! Of course, you didn’t copy any of the writing. Which author does that? Their quotes must have been combined with your notes. You were not aware of the copy when you were compiling the text among mass of deadline. If the surgeon cuts off the leg, the author also can use other authors’ quotations. You are probably just careless, not a liar! Who doesn’t believe? But the fact is that you have copied several books. About six books so far and in this way have proven to be the stupidest way to go.

The accusations you made against me were not successful. Unlike you, there is no source in my story. The “roots” had no footnote. Courlander, the author of the African novel, took my complaint to court, but I hadn’t even heard of his book, so how could I copy the story I hadn’t read. Later, following research, Courlander found three phrases from “The Africans” in my novel. I was crushed, but I insisted on my innocence. I really didn’t know how these quotes came to be. On the other hand, as the witnesses testify, I come to an interesting conclusion: “I found my characters in my numerous speeches and in my meetings with different people.” However, the judge told my lawyer that he had been ordered to convict me of lying. Therefore, I accepted the sentence a day before the judge.

Doris! You thought intelligently that, after being accused of plagiarizing 40 pages of Fitzgerald and the Kennedy family, bought the biography of Kathleen Kennedy. I like your tactics, because, even though you hid your hush money to remain silent, you pretended to pay for it after a long-term legal complaint. You calmly on the News Network program in definition of plagiarism spoke of “intention”: “Our goal was not to use someone else’s words in our own name, because this is called plagiarism.”

Steve, you’re as guilty as Doris. Rejecting the News Network invitation was proof that you were wrong. Literary distortion of plagiarism is one thing, and denying it is another, because in response to the New York Times, you said, “If I write something and a part of it is someone else’s writing, I quote them and write the sources in footnote.” What you didn’t do.

Finally, I would like to remind you that your hope is in your publisher, Simon and Schuster. As long as your works are among the bestsellers, they will not blame you. Publishers are the same as lawyers, as long as they are financially secure, it doesn’t matter to them whether their clients are moral or not!

No plagiarist has ever had loyal publisher. Even after my forced admission of forgery and copying of the roots in court, my publisher, Doubleday, continued to publish it. Instead, the company that sells my books changed the name of my book to “Non-fiction” and then continued to sell it. As I said, don’t worry and be happy. You can still count on Simon and Schuster for your immoral actions.

Your faithful correspondent,

Alex Haley

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