Authors: Alex Haley
The Story of an American Family
AND DAVID STEVENS
AVON BOOKS & NEW YORK
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Copyright C) 1993 by the Estate of Alexandet Palmer Haley, Myran E.
Haley, and David Stevens Published by arrangement with the author
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 92-47089 ISBN: 0-380-70275-4
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First Avon Books Printing: February 1994
AVON TRADEMARK REG. U.S. PAT. OFF. AND IN OTHER COUNTRIES, MARCA
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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 21
Dedicated to the memory of Alex Haley
And to the African, Kanyuro, of the Kikuyu, who saved my life during a
small skirmish in an obscure war on the Kenya/Uganda border, and gave
me the priceless gift of the years since then.
The role played by David Wolper in Alex's career, and, latterly, my own,
is remarkable, but I would also like to record my gratitude to Bernard
Sofronski, who first had the idea of associating me with Alex and this
My thanks also to Mark Wolper and John Erman. To Jeff Sagansky, John
Matoyan, and Larry Strichman. To Paul Bresnick, and everyone at William
To Louis Blau, and to George Haley, Alex's brother, and William Haley,
To my agent, Irv Schwartz, who is the best, a pillar of support and a
valued friend. To Fiona McLauchlan and Daniel Donnelly, for their help
in research. To the staff at Alex's farm, who adopted me and nicknamed
me The Moonshine Kid, and especially Gertie Brummitt, who first let me
into the secret.
To Bubby, with love. And Rooney, Myrtle, Maggie, and Dudley. And Morgan,
whom we miss.
On Alex's behalf, it is ittcumbent on me to record his gratitude to Myran
E. Haley, his wife and valued associate, and to George Sims, his lifelong
friend and master researcher.
Hurra for the Hickory Tree! Hurra for the Hickory Tree! Its branches
will wave 0'er tyranny's grave And bloomfor the brave And the fi-ee.
-PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN SONG, 1832
On a cold and rainy April night, in a guarded garret somewhere in Dublin,
James Jackson 11, known as Jamie, swore a most sacred, solemn oath.
"In the awful presence of God, 1, Jamie Jackson, do voluntarily swear and
declare that I will form a brotherhood among Irishmen of every religion,
for equal, full, and adequate representation of all Irishmen. Not hopes,
fears, rewards, or punishment shall ever induce me to inform on, or to
give evidence against, any member of this society. So help me God."
It was the year 1797. Jamie was barely fifteen. There were eleven other
men in the room, for no cell of the illegal association could be larger
than twelve. He had been sponsored into the group by his uncle Henry.
Partly because of the eloquence with which young Jamie voiced his
convictions, partly because they needed every man they could get in the
fight against the occupying British, but mostly out of respect for his
uncle, not one black bean was cast against him.
Three months previously, a fleet of forty French ships carrying twelve
thousand men had sailed toward Bantry Bay, in southern Ireland, to drive
the British from the country. On the flagship, Indomitable, was Wolfe
Tone, who had persuaded Napoleon that the British could be defeated. The
weather went against them, and high winds and heavy rainfall frustrated
the landing of men from the French fleet. The storm raged for six days,
forcing the ships, one by one, to cut cable and seek safe harbor, until
the Indomitable stood alone. Then she too turned about and limped back
When news of the retreat at Bantry Bay reached Dublin Castle, Lord Clair,
the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, personally appointed by King George 111,
made a jubilant proclamation.
4 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN
"It was a Protestant victory! It saw God on our side!"
lie intensified the suppression of the United Ireland movement, he
ordered massive recriminations against the intransigent Irish peasants,
and finally he declared martial law.
The ferocity with which the British troops enforced his orders shocked
even the most moderate of men, and Jamie, appalled by what he saw, made
his decision and formally cast his lot with the Irish cause.
He was not the only member of his Protestant family to have made such a
His older brother John had abandoned Ireland and gone to America with
three of his brothers, but his older sister Eleanor was married to Oliver
Bond, a leader in the secret association. His sister Martha had married
Hu-h Hanna, whom Jamie believed to be a "Peep 0' Day Boy," a vigilante
group mostly from the peasant class. Under cover of night, toward dawn,
the Peep 0' Days took what small vengeance they could against the
occupying British troops.
His sister Sara was engaged to Jimmy Hanna, Hugh's brother, who had been
tutor to Jamie when he was a boy in Ballybay, and had helped to awaken
his social conscience. Jamie's uncle, Henry Jackson, with whom he lodged
while he was at school in Dublin, was leader of the small cell that Jamie
Yet Jamie was an unlikely revolutionary. The eleventh of twelve children,
he was bom to comparative wealth, and grew up in an atmosphere of
privilege and security. His father, James Jackson, owned many acres of
land and a linen mill at Ballybay, near Carrickmacross, in County
Monaghan. The British were well disposed to those native-born Irish who
espoused their religion and respected their authority, and James Jackson
had flourished under their colonial dominion.
A stem, intolerant man, James Jackson loved the English way of life, and
had little sympathy for the Catholic peasants. It appalled him that so
many of his children had chosen to embrace the nationalist cause, and
thus put everything he had worked for and achieved, and their own
inheritance, at risk. He could not understand that it was the bloodless
austerity of his heart and manner that had driven his children to seek
and companionship in the camaraderie of political passion. He was
dispassionate toward his family and, except in matters of procreation,
detached frorn his wife. Other than the marital bed, his only passion was
his hobby, the breeding of champion racehorses.
When Jamie was eighteen months old, his mother gave birth to another boy,
Washington, and died four months later, at thirty-five, worn out from
childbearing and a loveless marriage. Jugs, the family housekeeper,
became surrogate mother to Jamie and his infant brother, and she came to
love Jamie as the son she had never had, and he basked in her affection.
Gravel-voiced, toothless, bosomy, and superstitious, the Catholic Jugs
had served in the Jackson household as loyal friend and confidante to
Jamie's mother, Mary Steele Jackson, whom she had nursed from infancy.
After Mary's death, she ran the house with peasant discipline, faced
trouble by first crossing herself and then wielding a big stick, and
tended toward earthy language after a few nips of her master's brandy.
She knew every Irish superstition in the book, and practiced most of
them, especially those that were said to placate the fairies.
It was she who introduced Jamie to the world outside his father's bleak
and loveless estate. Several times a week, Jugs went to visit her sister,
Maureen, and her husband, Patrick, a tenant farmer on the neighboring
Hamilton land. Maureen had a son, Sean, of Jamie's age and Jugs took
Jamie with her on these visits because she thought the boy needed a
companion. They became more than playmates. From widely diverse back-
grounds, Jamie and Sean quickly became fast friends, and grew up in each
Maureen's simple home was paradise for a young boy whose own was cold and
formal. The cottage had a thatch roof, mud walls, an earthen floor, and
a vibrant sense of life, of passion and laughter and anger. The loom was
the largest piece of furniture, and in the winter the cow lived inside
with the rest of the family.
Jamie loved the simple formalities of peasant life. Whenever he went in
through the door he would say, "Blessings upon all I see," as Jugs had
taught him. He teamed some words of Gaelic. When Maureen churned butter,
she recited to him the
6 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN
legends of it. If milk splashed during the churning he would be doomed to
marry a drunken spouse. If someone "blinked" your cow, he learned how to
break the curse. When the butter finally broke, he twisted the staff three
times, and placed it over the mouth of the chum, and he helped her smear
a little of the butter on the wall of the cottage as an offering to the
He loved the stories that the shanachies, the traveling storytellers,
recited of the leprechauns and the little folk, and he believed in the
fairies, who lived on the mist-shrouded Crieve Mountain nearby. He loved
the great history of the Gaelic people, and of the blessed Saint Patrick
who had converted them to Christianity, and had rid the island of snakes
by tapping with his staff upon the earth. He learned of the glories of
the time of kings and poets, and of the Viking raiders, who were defeated
at Clontarf by Brian Bom. He heard the long history of invasion by the
British, who were determined to subjugate the Emerald Isle, from Henry
11 to the ruthless, hated Oliver Cromwell. Of the Protestant settlers
brought from England and Scotland to be settled in the north, to reduce
the influence of the Catholics. He heard of repression and rebellion,
evictions and retaliations, and the suppression of the Catholic religion
that followed the Irish defeat at the Battle of the Boyne.
He wept when he heard the stories of the potato blight, and the awful
famine that followed, which decimated the population and forced many of
those who did not die to emigrate, mostly to America. He cursed the
British for what they did then, expropriating yet more land, because the
peasants, who could not afford to eat, could not pay their rent. He
gasped at the stories of the White Boys, who refused to pay tax, and rode
through the night cutting off the noses and cars of tax collectors, but
never harming the innocent.
He wept again at the tales of the reprisals against the White Boys, how
they put the tar cap of molten, burning pitch on the peasant's head, and
mocked him while he screamed in agony, unable to remove the fiery mess.
His blood ran hot at the stories of indiscriminate flogging and looting
and rape, or the British soldier's sport of setting fire to the hay in
a peasant's cart and ramming the flaming
cart into the man's house, laughing while the cottage burned. Most of all, he
loved Sean, and tried to emulate his hero in every way. A moderate and
studious boy, who grieved for the mother he had never known and sorely
missed his father's affections, Jamie found in the rollicking, boisterous
Sean a friend who filled the emotional void in his heart. Through the days
of their childhood they were inseparable, roaming the lanes between
Ballybay and Carrickmacross, the daring Sean leading the wide-eyed Jamie
into scrapes and adventures and pranks.
Sean taught Jamie to play the wild game of hurley, and how to cut turf
from the peat bogs, stack it in barrows, and take it back to the cottage
to dry, to be used as fuel for the fire. They visited Sean's father at
the Jackson linen mill, and Jamie watched in amazement the arduous labor,