Museum renovation, new ebook publication Honoring the late creator Haley | Leisure information
By ADRIAN SAINZ, Associated Press
HENNING, Tenn. (AP) – Find the good and praise it.
It is a phrase that the late Alex Haley, author of the 1976 novel “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”, often said during his lifetime, from his time in the small town of Henning in West Tennessee to his journeys around the world as a journalist and Writer. His seminal book on the horrors and injustices of slavery contains messages of perseverance, courage and strength.
Now, on his 100th birthday, the author’s bridging legacy is being re-invoked as an antidote to a particularly controversial time of American life. A band severance took place on Friday at the renovated Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center, and a community celebration with music, food and a fashion show is planned for Saturday.
Haley’s life was full of examples of how they lived after those words. There was a time when he encouraged his close friend Fred Montgomery to become the first black mayor of his hometown and pushed back resistance from some of the city’s white populations.
Haley, who was black and died in 1992, is also remembered that month in the republication of a 2003 book entitled “Finding the Good” by former Associated Press journalist Lucas L. Johnson II.
Johnson’s book describes the life of Montgomery, who befriended Haley in Henning. As little boys, they swam together and wrote love poems to girls. Haley wanted to write a book about Montgomery, who was born into a family of tenants and suffered racism in Jim Crow South before becoming a successful plumber, farm owner, councilor and mayor. Johnson interweaves Montgomery’s story with examples from his own life dealing with racism, family members grappling with substance abuse and incarceration, and questions of faith.
Haley is best known for “Roots,” which earned him a Pulitzer Prize and when it was released in 1977 was turned into a TV miniseries that was watched by a record 130 million people. Haley also wrote “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”. based on interviews with the civil rights activist.
The Henning Museum and the house where Haley lived with his grandparents from 1921 to 1929 are state historic sites.
In his book, Johnson includes examples of Haley’s influence on himself and Montgomery. In this month’s republication, Johnson updates his book to put Haley’s message of “finding good” in the context of current issues such as the coronavirus and the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minnesota police officer.
“I prayerfully began looking for the good,” writes Johnson. “And I found the inspiring stories of healthcare workers and first responders – as well as ordinary people – who risked their lives to help others.
“I’ve seen people who once ignored the reality of racism remove their blinders, hug humanity, and work with non-whites to make change,” he continues. “I saw hope for a truly divided nation.”
“Finding the Good” was praised by Roots actor Louis Gossett Jr., civil rights activist James M. Lawson Jr., and Bernice A. King, daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The republication also includes an updated preface from former Tennessee Governor and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who was friends with Montgomery and Haley and quotes Haley’s inspirational motto.
State and local elections Alexander and Haley’s grandson Bill Haley attended the renovation event on Friday for the museum located on the grounds of his youth home. The museum is located near a house Haley bought for Montgomery, another example of how Haley “finds the good.” Alexander and other speakers quoted Haley’s favorite phrase in their remarks.
As a boy, Alex Haley sat next to his grandmother on the porch of the 10-bedroom bungalow-style house and listened to her tell stories about his ancestors.
Bill Haley called home “the spiritual center, the elixir of life” of his grandfather’s interest in his family’s oral history, their roots.
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