Monday, February 25, 2008

A little bit of all of our history

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.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I had to check out the snippits available on the PBS website. They were very intriguing and made we want to watch the program in its entirety. Alas, LPB won't be broadcasting it within the next two weeks. I hope they make it availabe for purchase. It's the sort of programming I want to sit down with my nieces and nephews and watch. Did you catch ABC's presentation of A Raisin in the Sun tonight? Outstanding performances by all involved. If we didn't only have to wait until February for this sort of national exposure of "African" American history. -- Daphne

T.J. Winbush said...

I had an opportunity to catch the show which was a two-parter over two weeks. It was absolutely amazing. PBS has shown some outstanding programs for Black History Month. On Sunday they aired a program called "Banished" that focused on how Blacks were made to leave their homes and land in Arkansas and Texas. There were some families who were able to prove their families were the rightful owners of ladn in those areas. They are attempting to reclaim the land. Kudos to PBS! I also caught "A Raisin in the Sun" which was outstanding as well.

T.J. Winbush
women-making-moves.blogspot.com

Donecia Pea said...

Wow I hate I missed those PBS specials. Especially "Banished." I kept getting email reminders about it and still missed it. Is there any way to catch a replay of those specials?

I did catch "A Raisin in the Sun" last night, though, and I thought the whole cast was awesome, but Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald were amazing! I could easily see why they won Tonys for their roles. I can't even imagine how those performances were live, on stage.

Adam Kealoha Causey said...

Hi, Daphnie. I would imagine PBS eventually will sell copies of it. And I hope one day our history books give a fuller picture of the American story, too.

I missed "A Raisin in the Sun" because I work nights. And I don't have TiVo. :(

T.J., I did catch a little of "Banished" late the other night. That was so interesting, and I had never heard that story about Harrison, Ark. I have to respect the committee that is trying to bring reconciliation, but I think change will be hard fought.