A tribute long overdue

Anne Arundel: Plan to honor author Haley and his famous ancestor is welcome news.

November 04, 1999

AT LAST, Annapolis will honor one of its most famous sons in proper fashion. After years of plodding debate over whether to erect a statute at the point where author Alex Haley's ancestor landed in chains at Annapolis, officials have finally agreed on a fitting memorial.

The question of whether to do so should never have been so labored.

Haley's ancestor, Kunta Kinte, was made famous in his classic novel, "Roots." Kinte got his first bitter taste of America when he arrived in bondage at the Annapolis docks. Now, Kinte and his descendants are potent symbols of perseverance.

The city of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are contributing $140,000 to the $1.05 million display. Other funds are coming from state and private donors through the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation.

"Roots" earned Haley international acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize and a Coast Guard cutter commissioned in his name. The book and a popular television miniseries also sparked interest in genealogy.

More than 20 years have passed since the idea surfaced in Annapolis to build a memorial to Kinte and Haley. In 1977, then-Mayor John C. Apostol opposed a monument, arguing that Kinte was not an Annapolis native. A small plaque installed in 1981 was stolen, and the site was defaced with racist symbols. The plaque was replaced.

The proposed life-sized bronze of Haley, reading to three children of different races, should engender broad appeal.

The list of honorary chairs for the display's dedication next month includes a multiracial who's who of Anne Arundel. One chairman is a descendant of the man who bought Kinte.

Such widespread support of a landmark to honor Haley and his ancestor is a welcome step in a progression that began more than two centuries ago at City Dock.

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