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Henry Louis Gates on “African American Lives”

A full house turned out for Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr’s talk last night in Mills Concert Hall. Gates, Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, is director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

Gates discussed his interest in genealogy, which led to his PBS and BBC documentaries, African American Lives and Faces of America. In these works, he used mitochondrial DNA to trace the genealogy of prominent African Americans, including Oprah and Morgan Freeman, among others, back to their earliest African ancestry.

Gates, who is working on his next PBS special, plans to use his research to engage students in studying the sciences, relating the study of genealogy to what they are learning in social studies classes. Many students lose interest in studying science in the 8th grade, and Gates maintains that the best way to keep their interest is to encourage the study of their own family histories.

For those who read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Gates talk easily related to the questions of genealogy, heritage, and DNA, which the Lacks family grappled with after Henrietta’s death.

For more information about Gates and his research, visit his Harvard University biography page, and for information about African American Lives, click here for a PBS press release.

One thought on “Henry Louis Gates on “African American Lives”

  1. Hey Sarah, Great article- If you are personally interested in genealogy and family records research you would find value in visiting – just updated listings of all county clerks in the 50 states 🙂 -Adam