05/25/2012 - There is a basic human desire to know who we are and where we came from—and those longings formed the foundation of the PBS documentary series Finding Your Roots.
Hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, the 10-part program was, in his words, “a journey into the ancestral pasts of some of America’s most fascinating figures.”
Those profiled came from an array of backgrounds. They included actor Kevin Bacon, news analyst Linda Chavez, musician Harry Connick Jr., U.S. Rep. John L. Lewis, former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, Brown University President Ruth Simmons and evangelical minister Rick Warren.
The series is Gates’ fourth in which he looks into the past of famous Americans, and it comes at a time when genealogy continues to fascinate many people.
The Pew Charitable Trusts provided funding for an episode featuring religious leaders Warren, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, and Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, which revealed some fascinating accounts about the spiritual foundations of our country.
Gates and the producers worked with leading U.S. genealogists and ancestry experts from around the world combing through family stories and finding unknown histories and relatives the guests never knew existed. Among their discoveries was that evangelism runs in Warren’s ancestry—his lineage includes church leaders going all the way back to the 1600s. “He’s got pastoring in his DNA,” Gates told an interviewer.
The series, which aired from March through May, is available for sale on DVD at pbs.org.