Haley graduated from high school at the early age of 15. He enlisted in the Coast Guard where he later served as chief journalist for 20 years. While at sea, Haley wrote short stories and sent them to magazine publishers. He eventually got his big break as a journalist for Playboy magazine. The magazine had contracted Haley to do a series of interviews with important African-Americans, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones, and Malcolm X.
Haley later wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, which was hailed by Time Magazine as one of the 10 most important nonfiction books of the 20th century. Haley’s most comprehensive work came after a decade of research with the historical fiction novel, Roots, published in 1976.
Alex Haley died in 1992 at 70 years old.