American culture has become obsessed with the intricate details of celebrity lives. People have also become increasingly interested in their own ancestry, which has been propelled by sites like Genealogy.com.
Harvard scholar and renowned author Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has combined the appeal of both and has written a captivating, thoroughly researched new book entitled "In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past."
While searching through his own family history, Gates stumbled upon the fascinating, and often revealing, histories of other prominent African Americans. The highly acclaimed, two-part PBS documentary, African American Lives, which aired in 2006 and 2008, explored some of these stories, but Gates sheds new light on his findings in "In Search of Our Roots."
Working with historical consultants and employing state-of-the-art DNA analysis, he uncovers nineteen inspirational, compelling family histories, including those of Maya Angelou, Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Quincy Jones, Chris Rock, Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey, and many more. (Some details of what he found are below.)
Oprah Winfrey discovered that her great-great grandfather, Constantine Winfrey, bartered eightbales of cotton in exchange for 80 acres of prime bottom land at the end of Reconstruction in a very racist Mississippi, then purchased another 80 acres a year later in cash; this is a story that no other historian had ever uncovered before. Constantine also learned to read and write while he managed all of that land.
Quincy Jones discovered that on his White grandfather's side, he is a descendant of Edward I, the King of England who reigned in the thirteenth century.
As he tells these extraordinary tales, Gates provides resources and advice for readers wondering how to map out the branches of their own family trees. So whether readers are interested in celebrity, history, or discovering their own family legacy, "In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past" will appeal to them all.