The Lie That Was Roots

Jack Cashill at the American Thinker blows my mind with the story of how Arthur Haley’s Roots is almost complicated fabricated with half of it plagiarized from a fictional novel and the other half completely made up. Did you know this? I never knew this…and it makes me wonder what other lies I was taught growing up.

In 1993, a year after Haley’s death, writer Philip Nobile did his best to expose what he calls “one of the great literary hoaxes of modern times.” In February of that year, he published “Uncovering Roots” in the influential alternative publication, The Village Voice. The article brought to a larger public the story of the Courlander suit and the Mills’s genealogy work.  Nobile also revealed that Haley’s editor at Playboy magazine, the very white and Jewish Murray Fisher, did much of the book’s writing.

Haley’s unsuspecting archivists had given Nobile access to the various letters, diaries, drafts, notes, and audiotapes that Haley had kept. They were a veritable gold mine, theretofore unexplored. In working his way trough them, Nobile came to understand the depths of Haley’s “elegant and complex make-it-up-as-you-go-along scam.” 

Apparently, when Haley first conceived a family research project in 1964, he had no plans to find an African ancestor. That thought did not occur to him until much later when he met an exchange student from the Gambia. Together, they shared key phrases like “Kamby Bolongo” that Haley could pretend to trace.

The student’s African contacts arranged for Haley to meet a “griot,” who had been coached in advance to say what Haley wanted to hear. “It was sort of like Piltdown Man,” says Nobile. “Haley would plant the evidence and then find it.”

RTWT.

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