Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Learn about roots

Doc series reveals ancestry of notable African Americans

Express Staff Writer

"African American Lives" documentary series will be shown in two parts, Tuesdays, Oct. 7 and 14.

The Sun Valley Center for the Arts continues its multidisciplinary project, "How Does DNA Define You?" with the screening of the PBS "African American Lives" documentary series. The films will be shown free of charge at The Center in Ketchum on Tuesday, Oct. 7, for episodes one and two and Tuesday, Oct. 14, for episodes three and four. Both screenings begin at 6 p.m. and each showing is two hours long.

The film series is in conjunction with the public lecture of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., to be held Thursday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum. Tickets for the Gates lecture are $15 for Sun Valley Center for the Arts members and $20 for nonmembers. To purchase tickets, visit, call 726-9491, ext. 10, or stop by The Center in Ketchum.

The documentary film series focuses on the question "Where do I come from?", which some Americans cannot answer because their history has been lost or stolen. Through genealogical investigation and DNA analysis, "African American Lives" reveals the ancestry of several prominent African Americans including Tina Turner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Don Cheadle, Maya Angelou, Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock.


The PBS series first aired in 2006 and was created as well as hosted by Gates, and features several moments of personal revelation from its subjects. These moments include a scene in which Turner is shown an 1889 deed for the sale of an acre of land owned by the older brother of her great-grandfather for an elementary school that Turner later attended. Another striking moment is when comedian Chris Rock tears up as he learns that his great-great-grandfather, a slave for 21 years, fought alongside Union troops as part of the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War.

Gates is the Alphonse Fletcher university professor at Harvard University and director of the

W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

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