Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.









William Thomas Hill Atkins, born 1936

Queen: The Story of an American Family is a 1993 partly factual historical novel by Alex Haley and David Stevens.  It brought back to the consciousness of many White Americans the plight of the children of the plantation: the offspring of slave women and their white masters, who were legally their fathers' slaves. A miniseries adaptation called Alex Haley's Queen and starring Halle Berry in the title role aired on CBS on February 14, 1993.

The noted author Alex Haley (1921-1992) was the grandson of Queen, the illegitimate and unacknowledged daughter of James "Jass" Jackson III (the son of a friend, but not a relative, of Andrew Jackson) and his slave, Easter. The novel recounts Queen's anguished early years as a slave girl, longing to know who her father was, and how it gradually dawned on her that he was none other than her master. After the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865 and the subsequent abolition of slavery, Queen was cast out. 

Jass Jackson would not acknowledge her as his daughter, afraid of compromising the inheritance of his legitimate children and goaded by his wife, who despised Queen. After many adventures, often unpleasant, she married a reasonably successful former slave by the name of Alec Haley, and had one son by him. Both Alec and Queen had a son each from previous relationships.

Alex Haley, her grandson, was unable to finish writing Queen before he died, and it was completed by David Stevens. While Stevens benefited from the many boxes of research notes and a 700-page outline of the story left behind by Haley, he would later say that his writing was guided mainly by their many long conversations.


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