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UT Historian Jeff Norrell discusses new biography: Alex Haley: And the Books That Changed a Nation

It is difficult to think of two twentieth century books by one author that have had as much influence on American culture when they were published as Alex Haley’s monumental bestsellers, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), and Roots (1976). They changed the way white and black America viewed each other and the country’s history. This first biography of Haley follows him from his childhood in relative privilege in deeply segregated small town Tennessee to fame and fortune as one of the most famous writers in the country. Roots sold half a million copies in the first two months of publication, and the original television miniseries was viewed by 130 million people.This deeply researched and compelling book by Robert J. Norrell offers the perfect opportunity to revisit his authorship, his career as one of the first African American star journalists, as well as an especially dramatic time of change in American history.

The author of numerous books on the history of race relations in America, Jeff Norrell holds the Bernadotte Schmidt Chair of Excellence in the University of Tennessee History Department.

The evening will include some rare footage of Alex Haley being interviewed on a Knoxville television program, courtesy of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound. A book signing will follow the event, which will be held at the East Tennessee Historical Society, 601 S. Gay Street, 6:00 PM, on Wednesday, December 2nd.

For more information, contact Mary Beckley at the UT History Department, 865-974-5421

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