Funds sought for statue to honor 'Roots' author

April 26, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Seven months have passed since William Alex Haley walked to the Annapolis City Dock to see the spot where friends and fans of his late father want to build a memorial statue.

But there's still no sign of their planned tribute. Now black community leaders are asking the city to help kick-start their drive to honor Alex Haley, author of "Roots," the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and television mini-series.

Leonard Blackshear, chairman of the annual Kunta Kinte Commemoration and Heritage Festival in Annapolis, and several other community leaders plan to request that the City Council earmark $100,000 for the project tonight.

The council will review the administration's proposed $11 million budget for capital improvements starting at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall.

"We'd like to have some money put in the budget for the ramp and modifications to the wall [at the harbor]," Mr. Blackshear said.

A few weeks after Mr. Haley died in February 1992, family members and friends proposed erecting a memorial statue at City Dock, where one of Mr. Haley's ancestors was led ashore in chains in 1767.

A plaque, often missed by tourists, marks the spot at the harbor where Kunta Kinte stepped ashore from the slave ship Lord Ligonier.

With the support of Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, a committee spent six months designing the memorial to Mr. Haley, who also wrote "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."

Members of the design committee included community leaders Phebe Jacobsen, the Maryland archivist who helped Mr. Haley trace his mother's forebears, and his youngest brother, Julius, a Silver Spring architect.

Preliminary sketches show a statue of Alex Haley, seated on a bench and telling a story to three children clustered at his feet. The statue, almost 3 feet high, would be installed at the bottom of a ramp.

Mr. Blackshear said the city has to install the ramp regardless of the statue to comply with new provisions for the handicapped under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He said he has raised little money for the statue so far. But a boost from the city would "help us to show some momentum," he said.

In "Roots: The Saga of an American Family," Alex Haley wrote that he visited the pier on Sept. 29, 1967, exactly 200 years after the Lord Ligonier docked. As he looked seaward, Mr. Haley wrote, "I found myself weeping."

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