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Before Dreams, There Was Roots (Both Are Fiction)
American Thinker ^ | Share | Jack Cashill

Posted on 11/01/2009 1:48:33 AM PST by bogusname

"This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln," gushed Rocco Landesman, the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Landesman was referring, of course, to Barack Obama, specifically for Obama's presumed role as author of the acclaimed 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father.

As evidence that Obama did not exactly write Dreams mounts, Landesman gives us a good indication of how America's cultural honchos will react. For a century, in fact, they have been heaping uncritical praise on undeserving artists of a certain political stripe, especially minority artists. And for a century, they have been pulling the curtain shut behind their pet wizards when anyone questions their wizardry.

There is no better case study of a literary cover-up than that surrounding the publishing phenomenon known as Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The book, first published in 1976, generated extraordinary reviews and spectacular sales. The mini-series based on the book captured more viewers than any series before it. 130 million Americans watched the final episode alone. And its author, Alex Haley, won a special Pulitzer Prize for telling the true story of a black family.

As Haley tells the story, he decides to trace his family's heritage to its African roots. All that he has to guide him are the tales his grandmother and great aunts have told him about "the farthest-back person" they could recall, "the African."

According to his relatives, the African's master had called him ‘Toby" after he first arrived by ship in "Naplis." Proud and defiant, Toby continued to call himself "Kin-tay." In time, Toby had a little girl named "Kizzy." Working from little more than this and the names of Kizzy's descendants, Haley finds his way back to an old time "griot," who tells him the allegedly true story of his own ancestor, Kunta Kinte.

As the story goes, Kinte grows up in a peaceful, sheltering community along the Gambia River in West Africa. He is well schooled in math and writing and the Islamic faith. Admittedly, there is slavery in this part of the world, but slaves were "respected people," whose rights were secured by the laws of Kinte's ancestors. There is also war, but it is fought under Marquis of Queensbury-like rules. Only the "greed and treason" introduced by white slave traders keeps Kinte's land from realizing its potential as an African Eden.

At age seventeen, Kinte is snatched from his youthful idyll by the evil, club-bearing "toubobs," or white people. When he finally regains his senses four days later, Kinte finds himself chained in the stinking hold of an ocean-going vessel, manned by ugly toubobs, all of them seemingly British or American. After a hellish journey, he arrives in Annapolis, attempts to escape four times, and is subdued only after some poor white bounty hunters chop off half his foot. The year is 1767.

Despite the book's easy-going tone, Haley is quietly laying out an indictment against the United States that is always loaded and often gratuitous. In Haley's tale, it is the whites who enter the forest and enslave the blacks, not Arab slave traders, not other blacks. Since Kinte is unconscious through the period of transaction, the reader has no picture of African participation in the slave market, nor of any Portuguese or Hispanic involvement in the slave trade.

As a Muslim, Kinte does not sense any virtue in Christianity. Indeed, it strikes him as crude and hypocritical. Coming of age during the revolutionary period in Virginia, Kinte sees the revolution as inherently fraudulent: "‘Give me liberty or give me death,' Kunta liked that, but he couldn't understand how somebody white could say it; white folks looked pretty free to him."

Fraud is the means Haley used to indulge his bias, and this he did in an extraordinarily reckless fashion. Unfortunately for Haley, at least one person in the cultural establishment was not about to give him a pass because of race or agenda.

Approaching seventy when Roots debuted, Harold Courlander was shocked to read it. Courlander, who himself was white, had been well recognized in the field of cultural anthropology since 1947 when he coauthored The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories. In 1967, he wrote a more conventional novel titled The African. He had earned $14,000 dollars for it. Less than ten years later, Haley flagrantly rewrote large sections of his book and made $2.6 million in hardcover royalties alone. Courlander was not a happy camper.

In 1978, Courlander sued Haley in a U.S. District Court for copyright infringement. Throughout the six weeks of testimony, U.S District Court Judge Robert Ward listened in disbelief to denial after denial by Haley. On one occasion, he noted that Haley used "Yoo-hooo-ah-hoo" as a slave field call with exactly the same spelling as Courlander had and wondered how that could have happened by chance. It couldn't, and it didn't.

Haley's defense fell apart when, during discovery, the plaintiff's lawyers found three quotes from The African among typed notes that he had neglected to destroy. The last thing Judge Ward wanted to do was to undermine a newly ascendant black hero. Midway through the trial, he counseled Haley and his attorneys that he would have to contemplate a perjury charge unless they settled with Courlander. They did just that to the tune of $650,000, or more than $2 million by 2009 standards.

The settlement got precious little media attention. Only the Washington Post gave the case any ink of note, and even then it used a local hook -- "Bethesda Author Settles ‘Roots' Suit for $500,000" -- to justify its coverage. Like the other media who bothered to report on the settlement, the Post neglected to explore the real gist of the scandal: namely that the author of a "nonfiction" Pulitzer Prize-winning book plagiarized from a fictional one.

In the late 1970s, unaware of the plagiarism rap, two leading genealogists, Gary Mills and Elizabeth Shown Mills, decided to follow up on Haley's work through the relevant archives in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. They found that Haley's transgressions went well beyond mere mistakes. "We expected ineptitude, but not subterfuge," observed Elizabeth, herself the editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

In fact, as the Mills discovered, the man that Haley identifies as Kunta Kinte, a slave by the name of Toby, could not have been Kunta Kinte or Haley's ancestor. Toby had been in America as early as 1762, five years before his ship was alleged to arrive. Worse for Haley, Toby died eight years before his presumed daughter Kizzy was born.

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' genealogy. 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."

What is heard on the tape raises further questions about Haley's motives. Through a translator, the imperfectly coached griot tells Haley that Portuguese soldiers helped capture Kinte and send him "back home to the Portuguese." To preserve the purity of his story, to remind his audience just who really is responsible for those "atrocities," Haley scrubs the Portuguese out of the picture and directs the audience towards America.

In truth, even if the griot had known a Kunta Kinte, there was no way Haley could have written anything approaching a "history" about the first seventeen years of his life. The notion that an oral historian could recall the life of an ordinary young boy two hundred years prior surpasses the preposterous. "There was no Kunta Kinte," says Nobile bluntly.

Nobile and an African American coauthor put a book proposal together on the subject but, as Nobile ruefully admits, "Nobody wanted to touch it." A Lexis search shows shockingly little follow-up by the media, major or minor.

The New York Times buried the issue in a page 18, "Book Notes" column. There, in discussing whether Haley's new book, Alex Haley's Queen, should be shelved under fiction or nonfiction, the Times had exactly this to say about the controversy: "Two weeks ago, the charges about the authenticity of Roots and the integrity of Mr. Haley were raised anew in an investigative article by Philip Nobile in The Village Voice. Members of the Haley family have rebutted the accusations." And that was that.

Not surprisingly, the Pulitzer people did not ask for their award back, and the book and video have remained a staple in history classes across America. Nobile blames Roots' seeming immunity on his progressive colleagues. "They were all too scared, or dishonest," he writes, "to admit to the public that the most famous black writer had lied about his ancestry."

Sound familiar?


TOPICS: Editorial; Government; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: africa; africanamericans; ayersobamaconnection; bookreview; dreams; fraud; haley; obama; obamaayersconnection; obamatruthfile; revisionisthistory; roots

1 posted on 11/01/2009 1:48:35 AM PST by bogusname
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To: bogusname
There is real, awesome, surprising and inspiring African history to see that is good and shows the many good peoples of all the nations of Africa...WHY do liberals support the efforts of KNOWN liars in their unending effort to LIE about what roles people had in the troubles of Africa? I will tell you why, they do NOT want to share any responsibility whatsoever. It is an unescapble fact that many were sold into slavery by their own people, and the Portugese had more involvement than most. While America is guilty of the sin of slavery there are multitudes of others who started it, promoted it, benefited from it and protected it.

Thank God for men like Lincoln (Republican by the way as the founders of the Democrat party were busy protecting slavery) and others like the U.K’s Wilberforce who stood against it.

2 posted on 11/01/2009 2:02:12 AM PST by ICE-FLYER (God bless and keep the United States of America)
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To: bogusname
There is real, awesome, surprising and inspiring African history to see that is good and shows the many good peoples of all the nations of Africa...WHY do liberals support the efforts of KNOWN liars in their unending effort to LIE about what roles people had in the troubles of Africa? I will tell you why, they do NOT want to share any responsibility whatsoever. It is an unescapble fact that many were sold into slavery by their own people, and the Portugese had more involvement than most. While America is guilty of the sin of slavery there are multitudes of others who started it, promoted it, benefited from it and protected it.

Thank God for men like Lincoln (Republican by the way as the founders of the Democrat party were busy protecting slavery) and others like the U.K’s Wilberforce who stood against it.

3 posted on 11/01/2009 2:02:54 AM PST by ICE-FLYER (God bless and keep the United States of America)
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To: ICE-FLYER

They lie because it is profitable and because the truth reveals how ridiculous they are in blaming white Americans for all of their problems.


4 posted on 11/01/2009 2:12:18 AM PST by bogusname (Banish All Lliberals)
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To: bogusname

That’s right-great post.

Go to your public library and look for Roots—it’s in the FICTION section. It’s a lot of biased BS by the plagarist Haley who also helped Malcolm X with his autobio full of lies —Read “Malcolm” by Bruce Perry-that’s the book to read—Malcolm X was a fraud who was Clintonesque in his serial lying about his life.

Hell, anyone sounds good if they’re the one’s writing it, and they don’t care about the truth.What’s harmful is this BS gets ate up by a bunch of low IQ people with anger, loking to excuse away their own failures, with a chip on the shoulder and no impulse control and they act upon it. It’s always nice to have a fairy tale to explain/excuse your own failures.

Lest you think I’m overstating it—it says in the article the judge in the case was anxious not to be the bad guy against an “ascendant black hero” or some crap. My ass. These freaking people talk about “keeping it real”, but all you get is lies and BS.

Slavery was a bad thing, but it’s not the reason blacks have problems today.


5 posted on 11/01/2009 2:15:52 AM PST by Mac from Cleveland (Dreams from My Father--(food, shelter, and education from some typical white folks)
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To: bogusname

Oh and another thing—they had the movie Amistad or something a few years ago-Spielberg’s white guilt flop movie loosely based on a true story about a group of slaves who reach the US in the 1820s or so, and petition for freedom-with the help of ex-President John Quincy Adams. They win and go back to Africa, thanks to their noble black leader, Cinque. How heartwarming.

However, the real Cinque went back to Africa and became.....wait for it.....a slave trader—catching and selling his fellow Africans into the same life he escaped from.

Like the freed American slaves who were sent to Liberia, and made plantation of their own (rubber trees) and enslaved the natives.


6 posted on 11/01/2009 2:20:02 AM PST by Mac from Cleveland (Dreams from My Father--(food, shelter, and education from some typical white folks)
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To: Mac from Cleveland

That’s exactly right and well said.


7 posted on 11/01/2009 2:20:45 AM PST by bogusname (Banish All Lliberals)
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To: Mac from Cleveland

LOL


8 posted on 11/01/2009 2:22:00 AM PST by bogusname (Banish All Lliberals)
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To: bogusname

Back when this was going on, I happened to have read both “The African” and “Roots”. That one was based on the other was blazingly obvious. Not only was Haly a plagiarist, he was a BAD plagiarist.


9 posted on 11/01/2009 2:44:57 AM PST by Wonder Warthog ( The Hog of Steel)
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To: Wonder Warthog
Not only was Haly a plagiarist, he was a BAD plagiarist.

The guy who wrote the book for Haley, Murray Fisher, was a BAD plagiarist.

10 posted on 11/01/2009 4:41:01 AM PST by Right Wing Assault (The Obama magic is fading.)
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To: Mac from Cleveland

Hell, anyone sounds good if they’re the one’s writing it, and they don’t care about the truth.

Thats a damn fact! Just look at the medals that hanoi john got in vietnam on the strength of the after action reports that HE wrote.


11 posted on 11/01/2009 7:14:23 AM PST by weezel
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To: Mac from Cleveland
Malcolm X was a fraud who was ClintonObamaesque in his serial lying about his life.

Like father, like son.

12 posted on 11/01/2009 7:55:08 AM PST by WhistlingPastTheGraveyard (Some men just want to watch the world burn.)
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To: bogusname

BTTT


13 posted on 11/01/2009 10:40:19 PM PST by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: WhistlingPastTheGraveyard
Malcolm X was a fraud who was ClintonObamaesque in his serial lying about his life. Like father, like son.


14 posted on 11/02/2009 8:20:09 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Does 0b0z0 have any friends, who aren't traitors, spies, tax cheats and criminals?)
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To: Grampa Dave
I have heard theories that Frank Marshall Davis is The One's actual father, and there is some circumstantial evidence to believe it was *possible* (given "Frank" in his memoirs lived nearby and Ma was, shall we say, into black communists).

But I haven't heard that Malcomb X may be the daddy... Unless that's not what you're saying?

15 posted on 11/02/2009 8:36:29 AM PST by Publius Maximus (God, please let 2010 and 2012 come quickly...)
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To: bogusname

Lying plagiarism bump.


16 posted on 11/02/2009 8:50:11 AM PST by Sans-Culotte
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To: Publius Maximus

Davis and Sr Obama didn’t have the facial expressions/likeness that Malcolm X hadto 0b0z0.

Also, those of us who can remember Malcolm’s verbal delivery style hear something when 0b0z0 does his messiah deliveries.

So Polarik did the blending of Malcolm into 0b0z0.


17 posted on 11/02/2009 9:47:10 AM PST by Grampa Dave (Does 0b0z0 have any friends, who aren't traitors, spies, tax cheats and criminals?)
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To: bogusname

18 posted on 11/02/2009 10:28:07 AM PST by pabianice
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To: pabianice

What’s so sad about the soft racism of low expectations is that it undermines the genuine accomplishments of other blacks.


19 posted on 11/02/2009 12:55:42 PM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (The People have abdicated our duties; ... and anxiously hope for just two things: bread and circuses)
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To: Grampa Dave

Grampa, you’re on the right track IMO. You may enjoy the research I posted on this thread:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2278969/posts

there’s also summary at #97.


20 posted on 11/02/2009 1:40:39 PM PST by Fred Nerks (fair dinkum)
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To: bogusname

We’re going to have to literally tear down the entire media-academia edifice, stone by stone and head by head, to get to the truth of everything. (deliberate bidenism) Conservatives need to take over the Pew-litzer somehow.


21 posted on 11/02/2009 8:53:43 PM PST by UnbelievingScumOnTheOtherSide (IN A SMALL TENT WE JUST STAND CLOSER! * IT'S ISLAM, STUPID! - Islam Delenda Est! - Rumble thee forth)
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