What is Alex Haley's thesis in Roots?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Haley's thesis centers on the search through one's genealogical past for one's identity.  Haley's thesis is that the individual who lives in the present tense can be traced to conditions as far back as one can go.  This foray into the genealogical condition of one's being can have a transformational effect on how identity is understood in the modern setting. Haley's thesis into the search for one's genealogical identity was fueled by his collaboration with Malcolm X in The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  The work was driven by Malcolm's own foray into his past, convincing Haley of the authenticity in understanding how one's modern identity is linked to the identity in one's past.  Influenced by Malcolm X's ideas of how past African- American identity casts an influence on the modern condition of African- Americans, Haley's thesis was to examine his own past and trace his lineage.  From this, Haley recognizes that his own past was a construct of slavery and that through him runs the blood of slaves. It is the examination of this past that represents Haley's thesis.

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