All Articles Tagged "henry louis gates"
As AfricanAncestry.com celebrates its 10 year anniversary, it recognizes a decade of helping African Americans trace their lineage and its positive impact in the media. In its time, it has played a large role on shows such as NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?,” CNN’s “Black of America series,” and most recently PBS’ new show “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates.
“The rise of reality shows has been great in many ways,” the site’s president, Gina Paige, said in a statement. “The work we’ve done with shows like Finding Your Roots is positively changing the way people see themselves and the way they interact with their families. This is the REALITY I want to see in my people and our communities.”
The black-owned site was founded by Paige as well as scientist Dr. Rick Kittles. Together the two created a DNA-based method for African people to trace their roots around the world. It was the first site to establish a market for African American consumers in the early 2000s. Although the heritage tracing industry has grown over the years, AfricanAncesty.com still boasts the largest collection of indigenous African DNA with Dr. Kittles leading the DNA matching analysis. Today it is still the most accurate and reliable site.
For Dr. Kittles, who has spent years researching African genetic variation, it’s an accomplishment he never thought would be possible.
“I never imagined that my passion for African history and the movements of its people throughout the world would have one day manifested in a much-needed consumer product among African Americans,” he said.
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We all know slavery has considerably limited African Americans’ ability to trace their roots so whenever someone is able to uncover details of their ancestry as far back as Wanda Sykes has, it’s pretty exciting.
As part of a new PBS series, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Harvard professor, along with historian Ira Berlin, a professor at the University of Maryland, were able to trace Wanda’s roots back to her paternal ninth great-grandmother, Elizabeth Banks. Elizabeth was an indentured servant who, on June 20, 1683, was given 39 lashes on her bare back and an extension of her servitude as punishment for “fornication & Bastardy with a negroe slave,” according to a York County, VA, court document.
“This is an extraordinary case and the only such case that I know of in which it is possible to trace a black family rooted in freedom from the late 17th century to the present,”professor Berlin told the New York Times.
Mary Banks, Elizabeth’s biracial child, was born around 1683 and inherited her mother’s free status, although she was also indentured. She appeared to have four children and the family continued to grow as the Banks’ descendants married other free people of color. Several generations of Sykes’ have remained in the Virginia area since Elizabeth arrived, most likely from Scotland, and professor Berlin says her story changes the images we typically have of the lives of the first Africans in the New World from popular depictions of plantation life to real communities. According to Paul Heinegg, a respected genealogist and historian, more than 1,000 mixed-race children were born to white women in colonial Virginia and Maryland, but their existence has been erased from oral and written history, since they lack marriage records, wills, and property.
Regardless, professor Gates says, “The bottom line is that Wanda Sykes has the longest continuously documented family tree of any African-American we have ever researched.”
Wanda’s pretty excited about that too, although she said discoveries that some of her ancestors owned slaves and that she couldn’t trace some of her other familial roots back as far were disappointing.
“I’m just grateful I do have a history,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. I was not able to trace the other three grandparents, and that’s huge.
“It shows that we’re still paying for the history of this country, basically. It’s just incredible to go back and see that you did not matter.”
Wanda’s family segment will appear on the new PBS series in May, but the show will debut this coming Sunday. Other figures whose roots will be uncovered include Barbara Walters, Harry Connick Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Margaret Cho, Kevin Bacon, Georgia Representative John Lewis, Branford Marsalis, Robert Downey Jr. and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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(AP) — “Black in Latin America” (NYU Press), by Henry Louis Gates Jr.: This spring, Henry Louis Gates Jr. produced a four-episode series for PBS tracing the legacy of the slave trade in six Caribbean and Latin American countries. “Black in Latin America” is the book companion to the television series of the same title.
(Boston Globe) — When we think of Latin America, we think of a sprawling quilt of Hispanic cultures sewn in Spain. What we know much less about is the huge African-American population that has been in the region since the Spanish first brought African slaves there. “Upward of 120 million people of African descent live in Latin America today,’’ says Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., who, even though he is a scholar of African-American history, says he was staggered by the number when he first learned of it. Gates is the ubiquitous face and voice on PBS of the African-American experience whose previous documentaries have focused on the lives of blacks in Africa and this country. In his new four-part series called “Black in Latin America,’’ which first airs Tuesday on WGBH 2 at 8 p.m., he opens our eyes to the huge, complicated profile of blacks in that region and also provides us the proper context in which we should view American slavery.
Public intellectual, celebrity academic, scholar with a media strategy – there’s a lot ways to describe a professor that keeps one foot in the ivory tower and the other in the limelight. Sometimes you will find yourself appreciative of the musings, such as when Henry Louis Gates tackles some new facet of the black narrative. At other turns you may wince at the volume of their views– such as those expressed by Cornel West in a recent face-off with Al Sharpton — even if you agree with their positions. The Atlanta Post looks at these professors and four others who have established a presence far beyond the classroom.
As far as academics in the public eye, very few people get around as much as Cornel West. Princeton and a weekly radio show with co-host Tavis Smiley are regular gigs. Beyond that he’s liable to show up anywhere. Cable news shows are a given, as are an endless array of forums on race. But that’s also him in the studio cutting singles alongside Prince and Jill Scott, or racking up film credits in the Matrix franchise, which is the only time you’ll catch West in anything other than the trademark three-piece black suit.
As you well know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. But if you’re not consciously aware of any Irish ancestors in your family tree, you may find yourself feeling a little left out of the festivities. Well don’t worry. There may be some Irish blood lurking in there after all. Here’s a list of people who, surprisingly… and not so surprisingly, have Irish ancestors. So use these celebs as hope that one day you may be able to celebrate the “green day” with full conviction.
(New York Times) — Renown came to Jean Toomer with his 1923 book “Cane,” which mingled fiction, drama and poetry in a formally audacious effort to portray the complexity of black lives. But the racially mixed Toomer’s confounding efforts to defy being stuck in conventional racial categories and his disaffiliation with black culture made him perhaps the most enigmatic writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Now Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar, and Rudolph P. Byrd, a professor at Emory University, say their research for a new edition of “Cane” documents that Toomer was “a Negro who decided to pass for white.”
(NYTimes.com) — THANKS to an unlikely confluence of history and genetics — the fact that he is African-American and president — Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to reshape the debate over one of the most contentious issues of America’s racial legacy: reparations, the idea that the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ unpaid labor and bondage.