The Prevailing South (September 1988)

The Prevailing South: Life & Politics In A Changing Culture (Dudley Clendinen, Bill Kovach)

It was at the family home in Henning, Tennessee, where Alex Haley first heard the stories that inspired him to write the international best seller, Roots. Haley is still crafting literature, which he hopes will be his greatest monument.

The author, who won a special Pulitzer Prize for the book tracing his roots back through slavery to Africa, first won fame as co-creator of The Autobiography of Malcolm X after spending twenty years in the U.S. Coast Guard. He is completing Henning, a non-fiction book about his hometown in the west Tennessee flatlands, and two of three more books in progress have Tennessee settings. One focuses on a fictional Appalachian family. The other is a state history.

With Sarah (Minnie Pearl) Cannon, Haley served as honorary chair of the successful Tennessee Homecoming, which brought former residents back for visits in 1986, and he says he has never lost his love for the South, despite the region’s history of slavery, segregation and racial discrimination.

Bill Kovach, then editor of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, commissioned a series of essays on the southern condition by seventeen eminent historians, novelists, and journalists. Their essays were collected after the 1988 election in The Prevailing South: Life & Politics in a Changing Culture. “It has been a long time since the South has enjoyed the feeling of being really wanted and needed in the national business of electing a president,” historian C. Vann Woodward wrote in the opening of his essay for the book. “But now, rather suddenly, and for the first time in history, both major political parties have held their presidential nominating conventions in the Deep South.”

Alex Haley contributed to The Prevailing South: Life & Politics In A Changing Culture by writing the following Preface:

Preface By Alex Haley

“There’s more substance here, so much more to write about,” he has said. “I don’t know anything I treasure more as a writer than being a Southerner. I love to write about the South and try to convey the experience of it . . . the history of it. It has been pointed at negatively in so many ways, and so few people for a long time appreciated the physical beauty of the South.” ~ Alex Haley.

Alex Haley also wrote an essay for The Prevailing South: Life & Politics In A Changing Culture: Out Of The Past, Into The Convention

(The above Preface by Alex Haley is presented under the Creative Commons License. The Prevailing South: Life & Politics in a Changing Culture was edited by Dudley Clendinen. © 1988 Atlanta Journal and Constitution. All Rights Reserved.)

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