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Alex Haley Plagiarism Scandal 1978 In 1978, Alex Haley, the renowned author of Roots, came under fire in a plagiarism lawsuit launched by a white anthropologist and fellow author Harold Courlander. Haley claimed he had spent a decade researching his heritage for his historical novel, which in 1977 was adapted as a wildly successful TV miniseries. That same year he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and the Spingarn Medal for the book. A year later his reputation was forever marred. Courlander went to the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York to charge that Roots was substantially plagiarized from Courlander's own book, The African. Courlander's witnesses included Michael Wood an English professor at Columbia University and an expert on plagiarism. Wood opined in a report that the evidence of plagiarism in Roots was 'clear and irrefutable' and that the copying of passages was 'significant and extensive.' After a five-week trial in federal district court, Courlander and Haley settled the case, with Haley making a financial settlement of $650,000 and a statement that 'Alex Haley acknowledges and regrets that various materials from The African by Harold Courlander found their way into his book Roots.' Haley claimed the appropriation of Courlander's passages had been unintentional. Haley orginally maintained he had never heard of The African, much less read it. Shortly after the trial, however, Joseph Bruchac, an instructor of black literature at Skidmore College, came forward to swear in an affidavit that in 1970 or 1971--five or six years before the publication of Roots--he had discussed The African with Haley and had given his 'own personal copy of The African to Haley.' In a later interview with BBC Television, Judge Ward stated, 'Alex Haley perpetrated a hoax on the public.'
Tags: Roots  Alex  Haley  plagiarism  scandal 
Added: 4th February 2010
Views: 15873
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Posted By: Lava1964
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2010-02-04 
As a published author myself, I chuckle at the notion that passages from another writer's works can accidentally end up in book. This was a case of plagiarism, pure and simple.
Posted by: Jedwgrn on 2010-02-05 
Although I have never read Roots, I did enjoy the miniseries and remember the problems Alex Haley had because of this.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2010-02-06 
After I watched the Roots miniseries (remember what a novelty that was!), I was inspired to read the book.

I was royally annoyed when the plagiarism scandal first broke. I initially suspected the plaintiff was a gold-digger of sorts who had no case and was just going after a successful author. Then, as the truth emerged, I was angry at Alex Haley.
Posted by: eric1957 on 2010-02-06 
I wasn't mad either. I was thinking when I read that J.D. Salinger had died the many films I saw that had a Holden Caufield styled character from Catcher In The Rye.
Posted by: Johnste on 2013-05-07 
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Posted by: Johnste on 2013-05-07 
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