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    Author Alex Haley predicts that his unfinished Roots will be "the black 'Gone With The Wind'"

    Alex Haley Archive, Including a Rare "Working Report" for Roots (known initially as Before This Anger), Dated June 18, 1967. In addition to the working report, the archive, which dates between March 11, 1966, and February 2, 1974, contains over sixty fascinating pieces of correspondence between author Alex Haley and friend Jo Love of Colorado, including over twenty-five Haley TLsS, five Haley ALsS, and seven Haley ALsS as postcards. The letters include their original transmittal envelopes. All items have been well cared for and are well organized in a binder.

    Before finishing The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965, Alex Haley began researching his second book, initially called Before this Anger, which was based on his own African-American family's history. As part of his research, he traveled to the Gambia in 1968. The final result of his hard work was Roots: The Saga of an American Family, a sprawling epic that tells the story of Haley's family, which begins in Africa in the 1700s, moves to their enslavement in America, and ends in the present. The novel was published in 1976 and quickly sold almost 2 million copies within eight months of its publication. It spent twenty-two weeks atop the New York Times best seller list (it was non-fiction) and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1977. That same year, the book was made into an ABC miniseries (the final episode of the miniseries is the third highest-rated U.S. TV program).

    The "working report" includes eighteen facsimile pages held in a three-prong dark green paper portfolio. The first page is headed with "Working Report: 'Before This Anger.'" The report includes footnotes and ten photographs affixed within the text. The photos feature images of Haley's African trip in 1968 and features images of Gambian tribal leaders; Haley speaking to villagers; African women dancing; Haley holding a chicken; and more. The text includes the story of the rise of Haley's own interest in his family's history and how he began the project. It also includes an outline of his research trip to the Gambia and an early list with brief bios of key characters from the novel, such as Kunta Kinte, Kizzy, and Chicken George. Our research can only find one other copy of this working report, which is in a major university's library.

    Haley sent the working report to his friend in Colorado, Jo Love. (Love had extended a standing invitation to Haley to stay in one of her Colorado cabins.) Included with the working report is the original transmittal letter, a two-page typed letter signed in green ink to "Jo." In the letter, Haley writes candidly and warmly. He confidently predicts big things for his upcoming book and writes of his approach to readers of his books, particularly those who "disliked the very thought of . . . Negroes in general." The fascinating letter, dated June 18, 1967, on Haley's personal letterhead, reads in part:

    "Well, this Working Report is completed now. And the limited, rather confidential mailing is in process. Only four copies left, of which a couple more must go out, and maybe more (so that later I may have to ask you to let me have the return of this one) but knowing your interest, I want you to have one for inspection, you being Jo.

    I guess it's really kind of a writer's way to rehearse with new material. Similarly, I've previously worked into some very tight (much rougher) form the book's other key sections. I feel I do myself a favor, to have this kind of sectional exercise before doing the whole book. And this one, I'm giving everything I've got.

    I'm supremely confident, Jo. I'll tell you - you watch: this 'Before This Anger' approximately is going to be the black 'Gone With The Wind' the Negroes' drama-charged, historic saga, with even much greater sweep following one identifiable both real and symbolic (albeit singularly lucky!) family down across 260-odd years of Africa, slavery, Civil War, Emancipation, then post-war, and hence. By golly, I get the goose pimples every time I think about the soon-now writing of it. . . .

    I seem to hold the view that I don't want to preach at people. . . . All I really am saying is that my particular approach, exemplified in the Malcolm X book, is the projection of a feeling of quiet and objective presentation of my subject; always clearly right on top of my material, always obviously having carefully dealt with whatever I'm talking about; but only rarely frontally attacking the reader - and through all of this unloading for him page after page after page of something that, in a disarming way, grips him. . . . If he is not extremely an adamant bigot, down in there where he has held negatives, if he isn't careful, he is gong to privately concede at least in some areas, that it can be, indeed, that he has been wrong. And he will talk with his peers, at the least suggesting that they, too, read the book. . . .

    The letters that come, sometimes several a day, their theme, '-I always disliked the very thought of Malcolm X, and Negroes in general but I have to write to you and tell you that now, for the first time, I see some things differently. I think I understand how you people feel
    .'"

    The collection of Haley's letters to Jo Love, dating from 1966 through 1974, are friendly, conversational, and full of insights into his life and thoughts. He writes regarding numerous topics: assignments as an interviewer for Playboy; his disdain for publishers; his writing habits; his frenetic travel and lecture schedule; his divorce from Juliette Collins Haley (in his letter dated July 30, 1969, Haley recounts many personal details about Juliette and his life with her); various writing and television projects. In many letters, he drops the names of celebrities that he knows (Phyllis Diller, Johnny Carson ["finding him, in person, the utter opposite of what charm is witnessed on the TV screens"], James Baldwin, Tony Curtis).

    Throughout, the author discusses his research and progress on Before This Anger. For example, on September 25, 1967, he writes, "The Lord Ligonier (I think I told you I unearthed the slave ship; this was she) arrived there, from Africa, with her cargo of 98 Africans survived (of an original 140 when she left) on September 29, 1767. So you can see why I must walk on that waterfront and look out to seaward exactly 200 years later, representing the seventh generation of Kunta Kinte, who was on board. . . . I have continued to have fantastic luck obtaining information of things 200 years ago." On October 4, 1968, he reports on the book's progress: "The work on the book is going at a furious pace. . . . Already without seeing a word of print, a major motion picture company, Columbia, has made an offer for the film rights for this book. The amount involved, incredibly, to me, is the better part of a million dollars." As part of his research, Haley read Frederick Douglass' autobiography in 1970, which, according to his letter dated August 19, 1970, "gave me a whole new concept of slavery. And I remember that it gave me a whole new insight into the great potentials of a man." Later in a letter dated February 2, 1974, the author mentions the new name of his upcoming book as he is "plugging to finish this forever long book, Roots. Finally it is at a state that the condensation of it will start in the May issue of Reader's Digest - by which time I hope to have finished the end of the manuscript. The actual book won't get published until Spring 1975."

    Haley traveled extensively to promote his forthcoming book. In his letter dated July 23 1968, Haley recounts reactions to his project while on a lecture tour. "I do so wish that you could attend one of these, to witness, as I always so enjoy, how the narrated drama of my five years research to bring a tangible family continuity out of the void that encompasses most all black families so very deeply moves people. All kinds of people, rich, poor, black, white, upper, middle, lower classes (whatever 'class' is). In some audiences people actually week (interestingly, always those who weep are white)."

    The following items are also included: a Haley signed card ("To Jo and Sue, with my [and family's] love! Alex") with an affixed photo of Haley sitting amongst a group of Africans taken during his 1968 visit to Africa; a Haley signed photograph featuring the author in Africa holding a baby; two printed marketing invitations signed by Haley; additional letters from mutual friends of Ruth Love and Alex Haley; a photograph of Haley on board a sailing ship; several Haley inscribed newspaper and magazine articles; a facsimile of Haley's honorary doctoral diploma issued from Simpson College; and letters from Ruth Sims, wife of Haley's researcher. This fascinating and significant archive featuring one of America's most respected authors deserves much more research.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2014
    8th-9th Wednesday-Thursday
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