Alex Haley, Entertainer

Grandson Michael Baker recalls Haley's larger-than-life personality.

Alex Haley’s grandson Michael Baker recently ventured to the small town in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where his ancestor Kunta Kinte once toiled as a slave. In an interview with Ebony, he explained that once he discovered only Haley among his family had visited the site in the mid-1970s after publishing Roots, he decided it was necessary to make the trip.

Baker also had a fun answer when interviewer Chris Williams asked about “some of the things people may not know” about Haley:

“He was an entertainer. If he didn’t like to do anything else, he liked to entertain people. I’ll tell you a story about him. One day, he was on a flight, and he was flying into Tennessee. They had a long layover for about five or six hours. The people on the plane recognized who he was, so he took photos with them, signed autographs.”

“When my grandfather found out how long the flight was going to be delayed, he called Greyhound and had them bring one of their buses to the airport. He had them get all of those people on the bus, and he called out to his farm in Knoxville to his cook, and he told him how many people were coming. He told him he wanted him to prepare a nice little meal for them. After they ate, he got them back to the airport in time for their flight. He loved solidarity.”

Baker also talked candidly about how he got caught up in the fame and fortune afforded by the success of the book and ABC-TV Roots miniseries. A new 2016 version is in the works, with co-star LeVar Burton on board as an executive producer. The Roots remake will be simulcast on A&E, the History Channel and Lifetime.