Monday, February 2, 2015

Alex Haley's Grandson Michael Baker Steps Out of the Shadows Into His Destiny

by Cyrus Webb

For many people Alex Haley’s book ROOTS (and the subsequent movie that it inspired) was a turning point in not just showing the history of a family but the challenges and struggles of a people and even a nation. It showed that in spite of your circumstances you could move forward and achieve something great, even though the path ahead was not easy.

Few understand that better than Michael Baker, the first grandson of Alex Haley himself. His mother Lydia Haley, first daughter of Alex and Nannie Haley, shared with him the lineage that he came from, but who would have known that his own life would be full of its own challenges and obstacles, extreme highs and devastating lows.

“It didn’t really hit me until I was about 17 the phenomena of Roots and who my grandfather was,” Baker told me. There was so much talk about the Haley name and who he was from, that there were times that he felt almost invisible. “I was Alex Haley’s grandson, not Michael,” he says.

For anybody trying to find themselves and discover their own path, this would make things extremely difficult. Baker would go on to rebel, finding himself on the wrong side of the law and even incarcerated for over a decade. That time in prison, however, was the beginning of his own inner freedom.

“I began to ask myself the important questions like ‘Who am I?’ and “Where am I going?” When he was released from prison in 2000 he then began a serious quest to discover the answers.

Today Michael Baker is a husband and father living in Newport, North Carolina. He carries his father’s last name, but he is proud of the family he is from and what they have contributed to not just the nation but the world. “I will always be Alex Haley’s grandson,” he says, “and I’m okay with that. But I am also Michael: a man who has made mistakes, learned difficult lessons and now have something that I can pass on to my family and the world.”

Michael hopes to use what he has been through to help young people understand and appreciate that what they have done and where they come from doesn’t have to define them. “We are all in this thing together,” he says. “We have to get past names and what we see and appreciate people for what they have to contribute to the world.”

Currently Michael is working on a book of his life and experiences and during the months of February and March he will be traveling throughout Raleigh, Charlotte, Newport, Wilmington,Greenville and Myrtle Beach, sharing his story and reminding young people and even adults what is possible for them. For more information or to schedule an event contact Michael at

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