African American Lives 2 on PBS WORLD

African American Lives 2 on PBS WORLD

Mon, 02/15/2010 - 7:00pm

Kathleen Henderson's great-grandfather Hummons pictured with his brothers.

Credit: Courtesy of Kathleen Henderson

This four-part Series explores roots, race and identity through ancestry of remarkable individuals.

“These stories of adversity, sacrifice, achievement and empowerment transcend the realm of color with a universal resonance.”
– Henry Louis Gates Jr., series host and participant

Building on the widespread acclaim of AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES (2006) and OPRAH’S ROOTS (2007), AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 will again journey deep into the African-American experience to reveal the triumphs and tragedies within the family histories of an all-new group of remarkable participants. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. returns as series host, guiding genealogical investigations down through the 20th century, Reconstruction, slavery and early U.S. history, and presenting cutting-edge genetic analysis that locates participants’ ancestors in Africa, Europe and America. AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 encore presentations Monday, February 15 at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Friday, February 19 at 11 a.m., Monday, February 22 at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Friday, February 26 at 11 a.m. on PBS World (cable 524/DT21.2).

“These discoveries about our ancestors are fascinating stories that everyone, regardless of race, can identify with and draw inspiration from,” said Gates, Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. “They’re stories that together offer a new understanding of not only the African-American experience, but also of race in America.”

Joining Professor Gates in the new broadcast are poet Maya Angelou, author Bliss Broyard, actor Don Cheadle, actor Morgan Freeman, theologian Peter Gomes, publisher Linda Johnson Rice, athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, radio personality Tom Joyner, comedian Chris Rock, rock ’n’ roll legend Tina Turner and college administrator Kathleen Henderson, who was selected from more than 2,000 applicants to have her family history researched and DNA tested alongside the series’ well-known guests.

“Through even greater depth of research and more powerful storytelling, all of the stories in AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 2 share a common thread — they show the value of knowing who you are and where you come from,” added Gates. “And now, the inclusion of Kathleen’s story shows that viewers everywhere can take this same journey.”

Episode one, “The Road Home”, focuses on participants’ ancestors in the early 20th century. Stories include the tragic account of Tom Joyner’s great-uncles who, in 1915, were convicted by an all-white jury and executed in the electric chair for a crime that new evidence suggests they did not commit, and Bliss Broyard, who lived her life unaware that her father, renowned New York Times critic Anatole Broyard, was a light-skinned black man who chose to “pass” as white. She learned of her African-American roots upon her father’s death in 1990.

Episode two, “A Way Out of No Way”, continues tracing the guests’ lineages back through the late 1800s to the Civil War, featuring such stories as Chris Rock’s maternal great-great-grandfather, Julius Caesar Tingman, a black Civil War veteran who was twice elected to the South Carolina State Legislature; and Don Cheadle’s ancestors, who had been enslaved by Chickasaw Indians and brought to Oklahoma on the tail end of the “Trail of Tears,” the forced relocation of Native Americans during the 1830s.

Episode three, “We Come From People”, reveals stories of participants’ ancestors during the early years of the United States, such as a riveting account of life in slavery by Morgan Freeman’s great-grandmother, discovered within the records of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, and Peter Gomes’ ancestors, who were freed and supported by Quaker families in Virginia in the late 1700s.

DNA analysis leads to fascinating discoveries about participants’ lineages in episode four, “The Past Is Another Country”. A groundbreaking study links Professor Gates to a powerful ancient Irish warlord, while evidence suggests Peter Gomes’ direct paternal line traces back to a Portuguese Jew who fled the country in the early 1500s to escape the Inquisition.

Throughout the year, PBS invites viewers to explore the vast contributions of African Americans. In honor and celebration of Black History Month, February 2010, PBS presents new and encore programs, beginning in January and continuing through February.