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The Knoxville Mercury published a lengthy feature about Robert “Jeff” Norrell and his latest book — the first-ever scholarly biography of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Haley. Alex Haley and the Books That Changed a Nation explores Haley’s literary influence and argues that his books, including Roots, were the most influential and widely read works of African-American history in the twentieth century.

“Accusations of misrepresentation, fabrication, and, worst of all, plagiarism left (Haley’s) reputation in tatters,” writer Jack Neely notes. “While not overlooking any of that—and Norrell admits some of Haley’s actions are hard to defend—he believes they’re small compared to the stature of the book and what it accomplished in America.” Continue reading online.

Norrell is the Bernadotte Schmitt Chair of Excellence in the Department of History.