The Memorial commemorates the arrival in Annapolis of Kunte Kinte, Alex Haley's ancestor, as told in his book, Roots. That arrival was not a voluntary one. Kunte Kinte was one among one hundred-forty Africans forced into the hold of the slave ship Lord Ligonier. The ship left the Gambia River in Africa on July 5, 1767, and cleared customs in Annapolis on September 29, its cargo reduced to ninety-eight survivors. The Africans were sold into slavery on October 7. An advertisement for that sale appeared in the Maryland Gazette. The original can be viewed at the nearby Maryland Archives.
Millions of African men, women and children were taken from their homelands and forcibly migrated to the New World under horrible conditions. People were packed into ships for months with very little space and care. Many died on the journey known as the Middle Passage. Kunta Kinte was one of those who survived the Middle Passage and told his story which was shared with the world by his descendant, Alex Haley.
The Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial symbolizes for all people the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. That triumph grows out of faith, love of family, and pride in cultural heritage.
This memorial is dedicated to our country's African ancestors whose names, unlike Kunta Kinte's, are lost forever. It is hoped that the Memorial will be:
A PLACE FOR LEARNING,
A PLACE FOR STORY SHARING,
A PLACE FOR INSPIRATION
A PLACE FOR REFLECTION AND HEALING.
Alexander Murray Palmer Haley
(1921 - 1992)
As a boy, Alex Haley first heard of his ancestor Kunta Kinte in family stories recounted by his maternal grandmother. Those stories told of Kunta Kinte landing with other Gambian Africans in "Napolis."
Haley visited "Napolis" (Annapolis) many times. Here at Maryland Archives, he found key information in his quest to learn more about his family history. That search resulted in Roots, a book that enjoyed worldwide success and was made into a popular television mini-series.
Early in his writing career, Haley achieved the first-ever journalist rating in the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1999 that service honored him by naming a cutter after him. Haley's personal motto, "Find the Good and Praise It," appears on the ship's emblem.
The Story Wall, a row of ten plaques, is just beyond the sculpture group. Each plaque displays a quote from Roots and an interpretive thought. Share these messages with others.
The Sculpture Group, across the street, depicts Alex Haley reading to three children of different ethnic backgrounds. Join with them and recall your own family stories. A plaque next to them commemorates the arrival of Kunta Kinte. Haley attended the plaque's dedication in 1981, an event led by Carl O. Snowden, a prominent Annapolitan.
The Compass Rose, comprised of granite and bronze, points to true north. The City of Annapolis is located at the map's center. Stand there and face the direction of your ancestor's origins.
The Kunte Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation, dedicated to keeping alive the messages and spirit of Roots, built the Memorial with broad support. The Foundation acknowledges with gratitude the following:
The State of Maryland, Parris N. Glendening, Governor
Anne Arundel County, Janet S. Owens, County Executive
City of Annapolis, Ellen O. Moyer, Mayor.
The Haley family, William A. Haley, and the estate of Alex Haley
Doubleday & Company and Ballantine Books
Architect, Gary S. Schwerzler · Sculptor, Ed Dwight · Designer, Peter D. Tasi · Writer, Wiley A. Hall III · Contractor, Pagliaro BrothersOrganizations and citizens from points around the Compass Rose
Leonard A. Blackshear, Foundation President