The Root of The Matter

When I was a high school student in 1968 in southern California I enrolled in my school’s first Black History class. Two of us in the class were not black but we were all friends. I had the opportunity to read “The Big C” by Langston Hughes and The Autobiography of Malcom X by Alex Haley. These books and interesting conversations with an excellent class and teacher gave me a deeper appreciation for the contributions and struggles of other Americans. Later I was glued to the mini series “Roots”, also a product of Alex Haley who was a Coastie veteran. I found his works to be thoughtful and meaningful. As Historian I discovered this fellow veteran left us on this day in 1992. He was retired Coast Guard Chief Journalist Alex Haley, internationally noted author and the first person to ever hold that rate in the Coast Guard. He died of a heart attack.

Born in Ithaca, New York, Haley grew up in Henning, Tennessee, where he listened to family stories told by his maternal grandmother. A mediocre student at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College and at Elizabeth City Teachers College, Haley later spent two decades with the U.S. Coast Guard as a journalist, writing adventure stories to take the edge off his boredom. When he retired, he moved back to New York to pursue a writing career. He interviewed trumpeter Miles Davis and political activist Malcolm X for Playboy in the 1960s and later collaborated with the Black Muslim spokesman to write The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), an acclaimed work that fueled the black-power movement in America and was cited extensively in institutions of higher learning.

Haley then started his best-known work, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, published in 1976. The blend of fact and fiction, drawn largely from stories recited by Haley’s grandmother, chronicles seven generations of Haley’s family history, from the enslavement of his ancestors to his own quest to trace his family tree. To write the mostly nonfiction work, Haley pored over records in the National Archives and went by safari to the African village of Juffure to meet with an oral historian (Haley later donated money to that village for a new mosque). In the early 1970s, he and his brothers founded the Kinte Foundation, named for Haley’s ancestor Kunta Kinte, to collect and preserve African American genealogy records. Haley received special citations from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award committees in 1977 for Roots, which sold more than a million copies in one year. It was translated into 26 languages. Later in his life, Haley wrote a biography of Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the break-in at the Watergate Hotel that brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Though not always the case long ago, the military I served was a team of soldiers with various gender, race, and beliefs. Together we served to further the reach toward the dream of what American can and should strive to be. Where all have a voice and rights endowed by our Creator.

Our next flag event will be will be Federal Holiday President’s Day February 18, 2018. We will put out flags on Main Street only on February 15th and pick up on February 19th.

Our next dinner event will be the Annual Legion-Auxiliary Valentine Dinner this week on Thursday February 14, 2018 at the Hut starting at 6:00 PM. The Legion will provide the meat dish and Auxiliary/spouses are asked to bring the sides and the desserts. Since we are having the Valentine Dinner on Valentine’s Day we WILL NOT have a meal/meeting on 1st Thursday of the month in February, which is February 7th. But we will have a regular Legion meeting the third Thursday of the month in February, which is February 21, 2018.

Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings in January are still scheduled for biscuits and gravy and always a cup of Joe (coffee to the civilians). Just watch the weather, it is the only factor that my change that. Recently the cold cold morning have cancelled breakfast, plus the fact Chef Sebert needs a break now and then. If you are a veteran come on by. If you have a good story it may end up in print. Also keep up with us at website “americanlegion142.org”.

About Gary Lanham

Authors the weekly article "News from the Hut", about local American Legion Post #142 in Hominy, OK. Read his weekly articles in the "Hominy News Progress".
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