When the ‘Roots’ plaque was stolen in Annapolis
On a sunny day in September 1981, state and local officials joined author Alex Haley dockside in Annapolis to dedicate a plaque in honor of his ancestor, an enslaved African named Kunta Kinte, who had been brought to the city in chains.
“I wish our grandma was here,” said Haley, whose best-selling book, “Roots,” had been turned into a blockbuster 1977 TV miniseries. “She used to tell tales of Kunta Kinte, the African, as she told it. All our early boyhood, we had heard about this place called Napolis.”
Two days later, the plaque was gone, pried out of the sidewalk and taken away either by pranksters, who thought stealing the much-publicized tablet would make for a good joke, or by the Ku Klux Klan. A calling card left behind, presumably by the vandals, taunted, “You have been patronized by the KKK.” Klan representatives from both Maryland and Annapolis denied any involvement with the crime.
The action infuriated those who had pushed for the plaque to be erected in Annapolis. Whoever did it should be “given the same kind of punishment they had in Kunta Kinte’s day,” Annapolis Mayor Richard L. Hillman was quoted as saying in The Sun of Sept. 24, 1981.
A second plaque was unveiled on Nov. 22, 1981, weighing 1,500 pounds — 1,425 pounds more than the original, set into a concrete and granite foundation and bolted to the ground. The replacement plaque remains, part of a larger installation marking the spot where Kunta Kinte arrived in Annapolis in 1767, 250 years ago.