Haley Museum almost soley supported by tax dollars

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A lot is said about the price people paid to make history. There is also a price to pay to keep that history alive.

The On Your Side Investigators take us to the Alex Haley museum in Henning, Tenn., where they're fighting to preserve memories of one of this world's greatest authors.

A trip to the Alex Haley Museum State Historic Site takes you down a lot of country roads, but those who live here say it's worth the one hour drive from Memphis.

Henning Vice Mayor Quenton Reed said, "It's history".

Roots author Alex Haley sold his boyhood home to the state for $1 in 1985.

Tennessee turned it into a museum and historic site, which guarantees state funding. Now the state pays about $50,000 a year to keep it open.

Those who run the museum say $50,000 is not enough. They need more.

Alex Haley's boyhood home, which was built in 1919, is on a solid foundation, but it's starting to show its wear and tear and there's no money to fix it up.

The museum, which now includes an interpretive center built in 2010, gets about 5,000 visitors a year. The day we were there, only three came through the doors. One man from Germany, and Pledger Day and his wife from New York.

"Roots, the mini-series, allowed many individuals throughout the United States to understand the history of African-Americans coming here, as well as it stimulated many Americans to find out about their family origins," said Day.

Its rural Tennessee location is a big part of this museum's history, but it's also one of the challenges to making it successful.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee, an agency that studies government spending, suggests private donors and an increase in the museum's $6 admission is the answer, not giving it more taxpayer money.

"Private donations are far more secure and consistent and while they might be harder to obtain than one big government check every year, there are private donors who will support these causes year after year," said Justin Owen, president and CEO of The Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Owen also says taxpayers in different parts of Tennessee who'll never travel to Henning shouldn't be made to pay for it. He says the same goes for museums in east and middle Tennessee.

However, those who live here and the visitors we talked to are convinced everyone is benefiting from the history at the Alex Haley home.

The Alex Haley museum is a bare bones operation. There are only two full-time employees, and the only maintenance employee is paid through another agency.

Other museums in the Mid-South getting state funds are the National Civil Rights Museum and Stax.

Stax gets $100,000 a year from the state. The Civil Rights Museum got $250,000 this year.


  • mark

    “…one of this world’s greatest authors.”? You have got to be kidding me. Try spending a bit of time at a library.

    • Darren Desepoli

      Mark, Absolutely on one of the worlds greatest authors and a true humanitarian in the fullest sense of the word. Alex Haley was always doing something for others including strangers he just met in passing, He also put 5 students through school at Berea College in Kentucky when John B. Stephenson was the college president. As far as spending time at a library, true one can dig up a few books on Alex but at the Alex Haley Museum, my personal goal is to implement my entire digital archive on Alex Haley, which is actually bigger now than what the University of Tennessee has in their archive as far as memos, interviews, forwards, and written introductions by Alex to be freely accessed by the Public.

  • Darren Desepoli

    As the video states you will not see a more dedicated two women team keeping the Henning museum and the legacy of Alex Haley alive. Their business manager, Katherine is slotted for one weekly day of duties but usually puts in an extra day or two all on her own time. All the above are truly commended and have my full support. Best, Darren http://www.alex-haley.com

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