Former U.S. ambassador George W.B. Haley, the brother of “Roots” author Alex Haley will speak in Metro Detroit Feb 18 at Ben Ross Academy in Warren. The symposium, as part of the school’s Black History Month celebration, will emphasize the importance of literature.
Principal Eric Chism told the Michigan Chronicle that Haley’s visit is, in part, to honor about 15 students of the school at a luncheon for having read 13 books. The school is emphasizing the essence of reading to further develop the intellectual as well as the literary capacity of the students.
After Haley’s brother published the magnum opus “Roots,” which traced the family origin through Kunta Kinteh to a village called Juffure in the West African nation of The Gambia, it opened the eyes of not only many young and old African Americans about their history and identity but showed the often ignored power of African-American literature.
Haley, who served as chair of the Postal Rate Commission under the administration of George H.W.Bush and President Bill Clinton, was the second African American to graduate from the University of Arkansas Law School in 1952 at the height of Jim Crow. At the law school he was mocked and forced to take his classes in the basement of the school while his White colleagues sat in the classroom.
A graduate of Morehouse College, where he shared some classes with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Haley, a lawyer by profession, was the first Black elected to the Kansas State Senate.
In Kansas, while in private practice Haley worked on the landmark Brown v. Topeka, Kansas Board of Education case challenging the separate but equal ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson.
In the revered book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” written by Alex Haley, Malcolm X is quoted telling Alex about his brother George’s ascension in Kansas politics.
Malcolm told Alex to tell his brother George not to forget that his rise to the pinnacle of Kansas politics happened because of street fighters and activists like him and others.
When asked to react to Malcolm’s remarks, George would later laugh in appreciation of those remarks.
At Ben Ross Academy on Thursday, Haley will speak on the theme “Enhancing Global Literacy Through Reading and Conversation.”