Black Activist Children's Book Contains Pages of Plagiarized Material

Manuel Balce Ceneta

Alex Haley’s 1976 “family history” book was titled Roots. It purported to follow six generations of Haley’s family, from an African taken and sold into slavery to the present day. It was a media sensation. Haley, the author of numerous black history books, including a collaboration with Malcolm X on the autobiography of Malcolm X, won a Pulitzer Prize and then a Nation book review prize for his “family history” novel.

Advertisement

The next year, Roots became the most-watched mini-series, with over 130 million people sitting in groups to witness Haley’s generational tome. But it wasn’t Haley’s family history. Not really. Haley was sued for plagiarism. Haley settled with the author of “The African” out of court for $650,000, likely because he would have lost in court, and finding him liable would leave his reputation in tatters. Haley plagiarized from “The African” for his novel in substantial form, and it was later learned that Haley’s extensive family research was, in no small part, as made up as the characters in his book.

Haley didn’t admit to outright literary theft because he settled. Instead, he characterized borrowing characters and lives as an “oops.” He said of “The African” plagiarism matter: “Somewhere, somebody gave me something that came from ‘The African.’ That’s the best, honest explanation I can give.”

If that sounds like Joe Biden explaining away his outright plagiarism of Neil Kinnock and Robert Kennedy, you would be right. Joe’s explanation has been that he “oopsed.” He didn’t know he was stealing complete sentences from other people. No one (not even Joe) believed that, but it was soon swept under the rug.

Recently, another prominent black activist, author, and social justice warrior named Rann Miller published a children’s book titled: “Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids.” It is subtitled “Inspiring People and Events That Every Kid Should Know.”

Advertisement

The book covers 197 pages with 39 chapters. That is an extensive book by children’s book standards. Its publisher, Ulysses Press, released the book in March 2023. The distributor is Simon & Shuster. Based on a tip to National Review, Miller’s book seems to be heavily laden with plagiarized passages. National Review published a lengthy article detailing substantial portions of the book that appear to be lifted without attribution. For instance:

[In the second chapter] in a section about the ancient Kush and Axum civilizations, Miller writes:

Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy (a government ruled by a single person) in human history, preceding the rise of the earliest Kemetic kings by several generations, has been discovered in objects from ancient Nubia.

His writing directly mirrors the lede from New York Times article from 1979:

Evidence of the oldest recognizable monarchy in human history, preceding the rise of the earliest Egyptian kings by several generations, has been discovered in artifacts from ancient Nubia in Africa.

Miller was “on a roll.”  Later in the book, Miller seems to have filled an entire page of his book with a passage from a 2018 article that appeared on BlackPast.org.

Miller, it appears, wasn’t content to simply crib or copy from obscure websites like BlackPast.org or other little-read sources; he seems to have lifted content from well-known publishers and authors like The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, and National Geographic. National Review found a substantial amount of material that matched or closely matched that of other sources without attribution. Miller did change a word or two in some passages, but that, if not plagiarism, is cribbing.

Advertisement

The distributor has pulled the book, and it will remain off the market until it concludes its investigation.

Rann Miller has not responded to National Review’s request for comment. Nonetheless, I have predictively cribbed a fictional Miller response – and it will be something like this:

“National Review has levied a claim against me that is clearly based on White Supremacy and racism. My book was written and created to educate children about the oppression that Black people have confronted throughout history. That oppression continues with the National Review claim. I will not be stopped from publishing my truth”.

Sponsored

Recommended

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos