TV alert: “African-American Lives 2”

Tonight (or whenever your local affiliate decides to air it), African-American Lives 2 premieres on PBS. The series “traces the ancestry of famous black people as far back as the written record allows, and then a little farther, thanks to the scientific magic of DNA analysis.” This is a sequel; the first series was in 2006. Both were directed by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The lives that are examined include those of Tina Turner, Maya Angelou and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

African-American Lives 2 considers how identity evolves and how the past informs the present. As Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times notes in his review,

… the underlying narrative is one of accomplishment and how a people whose identity had been purposely stripped from them managed to create new identities for themselves, looking both to the future and a mythic past. (“Nobody wants their history to begin here,” says Gomes of the search for African roots.) And Gates is less interested in the lingering negative socio-economic effects of slavery than in the way that even successful slave-descended African Americans carry that fact inside them.

Visit the official website for more, including fascinating historical timelines.