Haley Speaks at Quincy JCR

'Roots Author' Discusses Kirkland Flag Controversy

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley spoke on everything from Malcolm X to a Kirkland House resident's display of the Confederate flag before a capitivated audience of Harvard students and faculty yesterday.

Speaking before a full house in the Quincy House Junior Common Room, Haley called the the display of the Confederate flag offensive, saying "whatever we do, let us consider others."

Bridget Kerrigan '91 raised a furor at Kirkland House last week when she hung the flag outside her window.

Haley compared the Kirkland House situation to a similar incident at the University of Virginia.

"There came to be an understanding that [the flag] was offensive. The offense was an ephemeral thing, but very real," he said. "It meant slavery."


"The important thing is that the people in this country realize the role we all play in this country," Haley continued. "You can't know American history if you don't know the component role that Black people have played."

Malcolm X

Haley said his relationship with Malcolm X was often frustrating because of the controversial civil rights leader's reluctance to speak. He described Malcolm X, as "never saying a word about himself." Haley co-authored The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

"All he would talk about was the greater glories of Mohammed," he said.

The author spoke about the incongruity between the practices and messages of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

"Malcolm was always imaged with violence. He was always making statements that he would let you interpret, like 'by any means possible,'" Haley said, "while Dr. King was imaged with peace."

He said that it was strange, in light of Malcom X's violent image, that the militant activist recieved far fewer death threats than King, whose message was peaceful.

"The irony was that Malcolm never had a scratch while Dr. King experienced the contrary," said Haley.

The author is renowned for his widely-acclaimed book and television miniseries, Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

Haley also credited Harvard for some of his success. Widener Library was "probably the best single source for information about ship building and ships," he said. Haley used the library's resources on slave ships when he researched Roots.