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Alex  Haley

Alex Haley: The African-American Search for Identity

Muslim Contributions to the World


Genevieve  Barrett-Moeller

Alex Haley's Roots, shows the hardships black people in America have undergone to establish their own cultural identity. The protagonist throughout the book struggles with the everyday life of a black person in a white world. In Roots, Kunta Kinte vows to never mentally submit to the white man and to always make sure his family knows who they are and where they came from in the world. All seven generations strive to find their own identity, and they do this by hearing the story of Kunta Kinte. Born a free man, Kunta is forced to identify who he is in a world of oppression. He is required to abandon all of his African beliefs, and the African culture as well as to stop practicing the Islamic religion. The white masters prevent the black slaves from truly knowing who they are, but the story of Kunta Kinte cannot be kept from his descendents. For seven generations, the Kinte family knows that they are descended from African blood. This helps the family in defining their own African-American identity, and it helps Haley to tell the story to the world today.

Kunta Kinte's African-Muslim identity was part of a much larger movement that took place many years before Kunta was born in the novel Roots. At the height of its expansion, Muslims lived in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India. During their religious expansion, Muslims gained a vast amount of land, and Muslims held religious and political influence over the Middle East. Muslims had control over different Christian and Jewish territories in the West, and they influenced the actions and lives of these two religious groups. Muslim attitudes towards women were influenced by African groups. These ideas spread through trade routes between Africa and the Middle East, and laid the foundation for the current status of women in Islam. Muslims helped the West to develop their knowledge in mathematical, scientific, and philosophical studies

Major Works Consulted:

Haley, Alex and David Stevens. Mama Flora's Family. New York: Dell, 1999.
---. Roots. New York: Dell, 1976.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Islam: Religion, History and Civilization. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.
Swisher, Clarice. The Spread of Islam. San Diego: Green Haven, 1999.
Photo Credit: Haley, Alex. Roots. New York: Dell, 1976.

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