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October 24th, 2007

Alex Haley’s life and achievements

Pleasantville - Reader’s Digest announced the publication of Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots, a collection of articles written for Reader’s Digest by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and a companion DVD featuring never-before-seen footage and audio of Alex Haley. Created in conjunction with the 30l Anniversary of Haley’s award-winning Roots, this special volume includes the original excerpt of the epic book as it first appeared in Reader’s Digest as well as a never-before published talk in which Haley describes his despair while trying to complete his monumental task of recording his family’s history.

"Roots changed the way we think about race in this country and profoundly affected the lives of many people," said Jackie Leo, editor-in-chief, Reader’s Digest. "We are proud to present these important and timeless works by Haley that broaden our nation’s understanding and appreciation of the black experience in America," Leo added.

Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots

is available now at and exclusively at Borders. In keeping with the Haley family’s belief that a good education was the best way to open doors, Reader’s Digest and Borders Group, Inc., will give one dollar per book sold to the United Negro College Fund.

"Because of Alex Haley’s groundbreaking work, African Americans, and the nation at large, rediscovered our roots," said Michael Lomax, UNCF president and CEO. "We all owe Reader’s Digest a debt of gratitude for publishing this book and using part of the proceeds to help promising students get the college education they need and deserve."

Haley’s relationship with Reader’s Digest spanned close to four decades, beginning with the publication of "The Harlem Nobody Knows" in 1954, and continuing with articles such as "Mr. Muhammad Speaks" (1960), about the controversial Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad. In "The Man Who Wouldn’t Quit" (1963), Haley describes the indignities his brother experienced as one of the first black students to integrate the all white University of Arkansas School of Law in 1949. A sense of optimism is pervasive in his stories about such legends as gospel singer Mahalia Jackson ("She Makes a Joyful Music") and Wilma Rudolph, ("The Girl Who Wouldn’t Give Up"), the track star who overcame childhood paralysis to become the first American woman to win three Olympic gold medals. These are a few of the articles that appear in Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots.

It was during a 1966 gathering with Reader’s Digest editors and co-founder Lila Acheson Wallace that Haley pitched the idea of traveling to Africa to write a "story history" of his family. Reader’s Digest financially supported Haley’s research efforts over the next eight years as he traveled three continents and traced seven generations of ancestors across half a million miles. In 1974, Reader’s Digest published the first excerpts from Roots in a breakthrough article - the first fully realized story of an African American family.

To demonstrate the impact Roots had on this country Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots includes an additional chapter entitled "What Roots Means to Me," featuring testimonials from luminaries such as Colin Powell, B.B. King, Robert Johnson and Halle Berry. Lawrence Otis Graham - one of the nation’s leading experts on race, politics and class in America - contributed the introduction to the book. Reader’s Digest Features Editor Donna Banks served as Project Editor.

Alex Haley: The Man Who Traced America’s Roots

includes a 30-minute documentary DVD featuring exclusive footage of Alex Haley speaking to Reader’s Digest employees about his life experiences, including his travels to Africa and his first encounter with Malcolm X. The program is hosted by Lynn Sherr of ABC News.

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