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Black History Month: Literary ‘Roots’ Embodied in One of Knoxville’s Landmarks 
Alex Haley statue in Morningside Park

One of Knoxville’s iconic landmarks holds the title for the second tallest statue of an African-American in the nation. Second only behind the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington, D.C., the 13-foot-tall Alex Haley statue resides in Haley Heritage Square off of Dandridge Avenue and atop Morningside Park.

The bronze statue is sculpted in the likeness of Alex Haley (1921-1992), American author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Roots: The Saga of an American Family.

Haley spent some of his earliest years in Henning, Tennessee before returning to his birth town of Ithaca, New York, and lived his final years nearby in Clinton, Tennessee.

Alex Haley - U.S. Coast Guard
Alex Haley in his service in the
U.S. Coast Guard.


Roots was a Pulitzer prize winning 1976 novel said to help make societal breakthroughs for the African-American community by vividly depicting the experience of slavery in America beginning with capture in Africa.

A television mini-series with the same title was released in 1977, starring LeVar Burton as the main character Kunta Kinte. To this day, the series holds a record as the third highest rated episode for any type of television series, and the second most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history.

Here's an original ABC promotion of the television mini-series in 1977:



The University of Tennessee Libraries holds a collection of Alex Haley's personal works in its Special Collections Department. The collection entails notes, outlines, bibliographies, research, and legal papers from Haley's Roots.

Crosswalks near the Alex Haley statue in Morningside Park lead pedestrians across the street to the Beck Cultural Center, a non-profit museum that features a range of local and national African-American history exhibits and artifacts.

The statue was created by sculptor Tina Allen, well-known for her monuments to prominent African-Americans. Allen’s depiction of Haley shows the author in a seated position, gesturing with an open hand as he reads from an open book in his lap. The statue was unveiled in the state’s Bicentennial celebration in June 1996.

The Alex Haley statue in Morningside Park is situated next to a large playground, and children often enjoy climbing in the statue's lap. The statue faces beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains that Haley was said to love, as well as an urban forest of trees that afford beautiful colors in the fall.

Alex Haley
Alex Haley

Just as Haley made his timeless cultural mark in African-American history, the Alex Haley statue in the City's Morningside Park serves as an iconic reminder of his legacy in Tennessee and world-wide.

"I wasn't going to be one of those people who died wondering 'What if?'" Haley once said. "I would keep putting my dreams to the test-even though it meant living with uncertainty and fear of failure. This is the shadowland of hope, and anyone with a dream must learn to live there."

For directions and information on Haley Heritage Square, click here.
Posted by kgibi On 27 February, 2017 at 6:20 PM