Dick Eastman wrote recently about the lack of genealogy-based television programming in the U.S. and the possibility of a new series. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is doing his part to fill the void. Gates, recently named editor of a new African-American online magazine with a slice of genealogy, The Root, is back at PBS this week and next with another of his genealogical treats, African American Lives 2. Gates builds on the previous success of African American Lives (2006) and Oprah’s Roots (2007) and returns as the series host with a new cast of prominent and celebrity African-Americans who journey into the lives of their ancestors. This time around Professor Gates examines the ancestry of poet Maya Angelou, actors Don Cheadle and Morgan Freeman and singer Tina Turner, among others.
In case you miss the broadcasts, snippets are available on the excellent companion Web site, launched last week, which is also set up for K-12 teachers to use the program for classroom instruction.
One of the twelve featured “lives,” comedian Chris Rock, had an unexpectedly tearful response when learning that his ancestor had served in the Civil War. Said an emotional Rock, “Let’s just hope that everybody learns where they come from so their lives can make more sense.”
AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 airs Wednesdays, February 6-13, 2008, 9:00-11:00 p.m. PST on PBS local affliate KQED, Channel 9.