I thought the quote made for a perfect lede to the editorial tribute I wrote in the Boston Globe when Haley died in 1992.
My editor saw it differently. He had never heard of the word “griot,” which refers to the person in the African village who keeps the oral history alive, whether through stories or music. At that time, the word was not in the dictionary.
The lead I ended up with was another quote from Haley:
“‘For the last decade. I haven’t been a writer. I’ve been the author of Roots. I’ve got to write,’ Alex Haley lamented in an interview that appears in this month’s issue of Essence magazine. Haley had just begun to do that when his life was cut short by a heart attack.”
That I managed to get Essence magazine in the lead of a Globe editorial is pretty impressive. Nevertheless, 20 years later, I still bristle at the conversation with my editor.
I also wrote that “Roots inspired persons of all backgrounds throughout the world to research their family trees.”
Haley would have celebrated his 91st birthday this weekend.