Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. TV Poster Image
Informative docu uncovers family history and ancestry.

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Positive Messages

The series underscores the significance of knowing one's family history, including its relationship to African-American history. It highlights the importance of paying homage to those who made our current lives possible. It also notes that people are not responsible for the acts of their ancestors. Curiosity, empathy, and integrity are major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The individuals featured on the series include politicians, community activists, musicians, actors, and others. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a well-known and respected African-American scholar. Some ancestors have dark pasts.

Violence

Violent images of slavery and video footage of events like the Selma to Montgomery march are visible. Some historical documents reveal details about violent relationships; others suggest that violent incidents occurred. Some life stories speculate about violent sexual encounters between African-American women and Caucasian men. These discussions are offered in a historical context.

Sex
Language

Words like "ass" and "piss" are audible; occasional curses like "s--t" are bleeped.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is an informative documentary series makes frequent reference to slavery and and other violent historical events and interpersonal relationships. Finding Your Roots is relatively mild, but contains some iffy language ("ass," "piss"; occasional curses bleeped). Kids probably won't be rushing to see it, but folks interested in history or tracing their own family trees will find what is discussed here both exciting and inspiring.

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What's the story?

FINDING YOUR ROOTS WITH HENRY LOUIS GATES, JR. is a documentary series hosted by African-American history scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that explores the ancestral past of some of America's most fascinating figures. From race-relations activist and congressman John Lewis to musicians like Harry Connick, Jr., and actors like Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, researchers scour public records, and family members are interviewed for details about their past. When necessary, DNA analysis is also conducted. Viewers get a chance to see some of the family ancestral images and documents, listen to descriptions about specific family members, and hear fascinating narratives about events that helped each person to become who she or he is today. Interviews with historians and other experts are interviewed to confirm certain details. The information is compiled to create a book of life that documents each individual's family history, offering them a concrete record of their family tree that they can share with other members of their family.

Is it any good?

The conversations between Gates and the various personages he is interviewing are emotional, especially when the missing details of their family histories are revealed to them. But the best part of Finding Your Roots is the way ancestors are identified to allow people to learn more about the folks who helped shape who they are today, and to pay homage to those who serve as their inspiration.

While each story is rich in different details, much of what is discussed in this series centers on the relationship between people's ancestors and African-American history, including slavery. But it also offers a fascinating exploration of people's family trees, and the various efforts made to solve some of the mysterious gaps in their life histories. Gates also offers some of his own personal history, as well as his thoughts about how we understand our ancestors and their role in American history.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how family trees are used on Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Have you tried to trace your family ancestry? Are there specific things you want to know about your ancestors? How could you go about doing this? Who can share family histories with you?

  • What resources could you use to look into your family's past? Are you more interested in learning about celebrities' family history or regular peoples'?

  • How does Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. promote curiosity, empathy, and integrity? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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