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A UT historian will present his new biography of Alex Haley, an acclaimed American author, Wednesday, December 2.

Robert “Jeff” Norrell will discuss his biography Alex Haley and the Books That Changed a Nation, at a 6:00 p.m. presentation at the East Tennessee Historical Society, 601 S. Gay St. The event is free and open to the public, and a book signing will follow the talk.

The evening will include rare film footage of Alex Haley being interviewed on a Knoxville television program, courtesy of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound.

In his book, Norrell suggests that few people have had as much influence on the interpretation of American culture as Alex Haley, the renowned author of two monumental bestsellers—“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” (1965) and “Roots” (1976).

Norrell’s biography of Haley follows him from his childhood in relative privilege in a deeply segregated small town in Tennessee to his rise as one of the most famous writers in the country. In the biography, Norrell argues that Haley’s books were the most influential and widely read works of African-American history in the twentieth century. Together they changed the way Americans, black and white, understood the black experience.

The professor and Bernadotte Schmitt Chair of Excellence in UT’s Department of History has written several award-winning books on American race relations. His 2009 revisionist biography, Up from History: the Life of Booker T. Washington, received positive acclaim in reviews in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

C O N T A C T :

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

Mary Beckley (865-974-5421,