Alex Haley has successfully defended himself against charges that parts of his best-selling book "Roots" were "largely copied" from the 1966 novel "Jubilee" written by Margaret Walker Alexander.
Federal Judge Marvin Frankel dismissed Alexander's copyright infringement suit in U.S. District Court in New York yesterday.
Alexander is director of black studies at Jackson State College in Mississippi.
In his 15-page opinion, the judge rejected Alexander's contentions that there were similarities between Haley's novel and her novel. "Jubilee" re-counted the life of her great-grandmother from 1835 into the Reconstruction Era.
Frankel said that "the review of the alleged similarities points unmistakably to the conclusion that no actionable similarities exist between the works."
Last December Haley testified for five days in an evidentiary hearing which was held in connection with this case. Haley said at that hearing that he had never read "Jubilee" except for portions after Alexander's suit was filed. In an interview in The Washington Post last month Haley again denied that he had read "Jubilee."
Frankel observed in his ruling that "nobody writes books of purely original content . . . words and metaphors are not subject to copyright protection; nor are phases and expressions conveying an idea that can only be, or is typically, experienced in a limited number of stereotyped fashions."
Another lawsuit filed in the same court last year by Bethesda folklorist and novelist Harold Courlander is still pending. Courlander contends that passages in the 1967 novel "The African" are paralled and in some instances are paraphrased in "Roots."