If you’re in the U.S., did you watch this season’s last episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” I haven’t watched all the episodes yet, but this one, to me, was the most powerful. I guess that’s why the saved it for last.
Film-maker and outspoken black-rights advocate, Spike Lee went on a journey to Atlanta, Georgia to learn about his slave roots on his mother’s side.
As he uncovered his family history, he was confronted with some very powerful facts and ideas.
His GGrandfather Mars Jackson was a major land-owner after the emancipation, owning over 80 acres. He did not learn of why or how he lost that land.
His GGGrandfather worked in a Cotton Gin that was converted into a pistol factory. He was making pistols that were used against those who were fighting for his freedom.
That same GGGrandfather was taken by none other than General Sherman’s army as they razed that town and pistol factory, and likely never heard from again.
His GGGrandmother was “Mulato” and likely the product of her mother being raped by their slave-owner.
He met his current, likely third cousin (twice removed), in real life and they had an emotional moment together on her sofa where they together faced the truths about the things that their ancestors did and lived through.
Thankfully, as far as I know, all of my ancestors were from New England and fought for the Union. I can only imagine how it must feel for genealogy researchers who have roots in the south to deal with the idea that their ancestors, not very long ago, had slaves and in many cases treated and traded them like objects.
As I watched this episode, I couldn’t help but sing this verse of Ben Folds’ “Rockin’ the Suburbs” in my head.
In a haze these days
I pull up to the stoplight
I can feel that something’s not right
I can feel that someone’s blasting me
With hate and bass
Sending dirty vibes my way
‘Cause my great great great great granddad
Made someone’s great great great great grandaddy slaves
It wasn’t my idea
It wasn’t my idea
It never was my idea
I just drove to the store
For some Preparation H
This episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” and the others can be seen on nbc.com.