Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr.

posted by Nell Minow

Families should make a point to watch “Faces of America,” an engrossing new television series on PBS. Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sits down with celebrities like Stephen Colbert, Meryl Streep, Mario Batali, Eva Longoria, and others to use their family histories to illuminate the story of America. It is touching and inspiring to watch the participants learn for the first time the details of the courage and dedication of their forefathers, those who came to America filled with hope and those who were brought here as slaves. Professor Gates said,

We were able to trace the ancestry of Native American writer Louise Erdrich back to 438 A.D. We found that Queen Noor is descended from royalty, and that’s before she married King Hussein of Jordan. We found that the African American poet Elizabeth Alexander is related to the emperor Charlemagne!


We went even further and used DNA analysis to look for “deep cousins” — common ancestors among our guests — and we found genetic connections between eleven of our twelve guests. I found that despite all our apparent differences in terms of culture and history, we are all the same.

Visit the show’s blog and share your own family’s story.

Faces of America With Henry Louis Gates Jr.Faces of America With Henry Louis Gates Jr. TV Schedule
  • Ron Williams

    The program with Louis Gates and others on “Faces of America” was just as illuminating for the famous guests as it was for the viewers. I especially was taken with the segment on Queen Noor of Syria, where she went to see the burial plot of her great grandfather within view of the Statue of Liberty. Kristi Yamaguchi, the Olmypic skaters family of Japanese descent, went through a very trying history, her grandfather didn’t get to be a naturalized citizen till he was in his mid-80’s, and after losing property after 1941, most people would have been broken and disillusioned at the very least. It showed the perserverence of immigrants and their hardships were forgotten, if not for Mr. Gates, their heirs would never have known the real stories of courage and fortitude.

  • Nell Minow

    You are so right, Ron! The parts you describe were among my favorites. I’m so glad you saw the show and liked it as much as I did.

  • Meg

    And if you missed episode one — you can watch it on the PBS website which I am doing right now (ok, I paused it to type this comment).
    Thank you for telling us about this fascinating program!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Meg, that’s great to know!

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