Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Search of Our Roots.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. In Search of Our Roots.
Crown see Random, 2009, 438p, 27.50, 978-0-307-38240-5 hs/adult

Companion to the PBS series tracing the genealogy of 19 prominent African Americans, this volume details the ancestry of people such as Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones, Morgan Freeman, Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Rock and others. Famed historian Henry Louis Gates races the ancestral roots of nineteen well-known African- Americans, including Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones. Drawing on personal stories, as well as census data, Gates details the lineages of these famous African Americans and discusses the African slave trade, ways to trace genealogy, DNA testing, and other related topics. Each account is illustrated with family photos, and, sometimes, copies of primary source documents.

Each account is absolutely fascinating, delving into history and genealogy of which many celebrities were unaware. Whoopi Goldberg, for instance, states, “...this is great, because it sort of cements that [her individuality and place in the nation] and makes it even bigger in me. I now know that his is mine. this country, this is mine.” Each account delves into the difficult to find physical evidence (census records, deeds, wills, slave sale records) for both maternal and paternal ancestors. Each account studies DNA evidence and traces the African and European ancestry (Quincy Jones is actually descended from Edward I of England). A remarkable work of scholarship, as well as some great storytelling. This is truly “Roots” for the 21st century. A must for EVERY library collection. P. Naismith

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