Shaking the Family Tree for Aristocratic Fruit | arts-and-entertainment

Every Monday evening, we watch my wife’s favorite television show, “Finding Your Roots,” which is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, a Harvard professor. Most episodes feature two guests – influential people from show business, the arts, politics, etc. Gates and his staff research the family background of each guest and then surprise them by revealing facts – not always pleasant facts – about their family’s history. Reactions to the revelations vary. Many are ashamed to find that their great, great grandfathers were slave owners. Conversely, Oscar-winning director, Spike Lee, seemed upset to learn that he had some white folks in his bloodline.

It’s amazing how many people on the show know nothing about their ancestors. The black guests have good reason in that their folks were not voluntary immigrants, and their family names were lost. Consequently, Gates often finds no records for his African-American guests beyond three or four generations. In addition, many of our forefathers who came voluntarily were leaving difficult situations, better forgotten. We are still a relatively young nation, and still believe in “fresh starts” for every new citizen, whether an immigrant or a newborn.

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Chuck Avery is a retired teacher who grew up in Connersville’s Bucktown neighborhood.

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