PBS produced a really interesting series called "African American Lives 2" for black history month. I haven't actually been able to watch it on television, but I have caught up some through the Web site. You can read a little about the lives and genealogy of some famously successful blacks as well as others who didn't know they had much African ancestry.
Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. leads research into the lineage of Morgan Freeman, Tom Joyner and Maya Angelou, among others. He shares his discoveries with each one, and they find out something they didn't know about themselves.
But the best part is that it happens on camera. You can see snippets from the videos. My favorite part about this is seeing raw, unscripted emotion from people whose public images are the stuff of pop culture legend.
Aside from the fact that one of these gets quite a lot of coverage on this blog, the interviews with Tina Turner and Chris Rock are my favorites for one reason: We get to see them cry. That's right. Chris Rock, the smart-mouthed joker, and Tina Turner, the picture of a rock 'n' roll survivor, shed tears.
Turner finds out an ancestor sold land for a price far below its value in Tennessee to build a school for black students -- one she later attended. And Rock learns, among other things, that one of his relatives, who was a freed slave, signed up to be a solider for the Union during the Civil War.
These examples are reminders of how important the past is to the present. Emotional reactions alone show that. It certainly makes me want to pin down more about my families' not-so-distant past, especially when it comes to sacrifices my grandparents and their parents made.
We haven't talked much on this blog this year about black history month, but this series is a good reminder that this is American history. I haven't done great research into my genealogy, but I am fairly certain I don't have black roots. But I am still proud when I hear stories like these. This nation was built on the shoulders of many great people whose stories deserve to be told.
So listen and share.