We are currently in season 3 of PBS’s hit show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the show is continuing to amaze us. In one of the most recent episodes we were treated to the family history of Puff Daddy, LL Cool J, and Nas, all of which had incredibly fascinating ancestors. LL Cool J even got to watch a video of his great-uncle as he boxed in a match, after having discovered that his mother had a half-sister and a whole other family he never knew about. Nas, meanwhile, found out that his great-great-great-grandmother, named Pocahontas, was sold for $830 and Puffy Daddy learned that his great-great-great-great-grandparents were freemen in Maryland, unlike the majority of African Americans during the 1800s.
Coming up in season 3, which will consist of 10 episodes, we will get to follow the ancestral paths of Azar Nafisi, Lidia Bastianich, Mia Farrow, and Dustin Hoffman. Every episode features two or three celebrity guests who would like to know more about where their families came from. Previous celebrities have included actors, musicians, and even Deepak Chopra. Neil Patrick Harris learned this season that one of his ancestors was a settler in the Virginia Territory, while Gloria Steinum learned she wasn’t the first feminist in her family. This is the third incarnation of the show on PBS. The other two were also hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is an American historian who is an expert in African and African American Research.
There had been a question to the future of season 3 after a scandal was revealed regarding season 2. In episode 4 of season 2, Gates studied the ancestry of actor Ben Affleck. It was later discovered that Affleck had put pressure on the show to withhold information regarding his ancestors. Affleck did not want the public to be aware that his ancestors were slave owners. As a consequence, the integrity of the show was called into question. The public had begun to wonder if all of the shows were not showing the most truthful side to the celebrities’ ancestors. In June of 2015 the future of the show was uncertain. But with some added fact-checking through an independent genealogist, PBS ensured viewers that this situation would never happen again. The situation had come to light after emails were found between Gates and Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton where Gates had sought counsel over Affleck’s insistence on leaving out the slave details of his ancestors. Part of the debate of this was how important are your ancestors to your current lives. Affleck had no part in the actions or living situations of his ancestors, as none of us do. So the purpose of leaving out the worse side of his ancestry is essentially pointless. But his actions to try to alter his history instead showed him in a worse light than having been related to even the worst slave owners.
Following the Affleck debacle, it seems that the show is running on course as it should be. The show is continuing to have great viewership as audiences are interested in both the history of their
You can watch the current season of Finding Your Roots on PBS Tuesday nights at 8:00, 7:00 CST or visit pbs.org to catch up on back episodes.