Finding Your Roots

Expand/Collapse Finding Your Roots


The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.

  • A Hurried Escape

    In this video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Professor Henry Louis Gates reveals to Margaret Cho why her father’s family fled what is now North Korea. Cho’s grandfather worked for the Japanese during their occupation of Korea. After the Japanese withdrew from Korea after World War II, Cho’s grandfather was considered a traitor. To ensure the safety of his family, Cho’s grandfather and his family left their home in North Korea and moved to South Korea.

    Grades: 9-12
  • After Slavery

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots discusses the steps people took to help freed slaves following the abolition of slavery. In his second Inaugural Address, President Lincoln called for the re-building of the country. In response, Quakers, including Kevin Bacon’s ancestor Lydia Atkinson, became very involved in the education of newly freed slaves.

    Grades: 8-11
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Crescent City Gumbo: Race & Jazz in New Orleans

    This lesson uses video excerpts from the PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to explore the history of racial diversity and intermingling in New Orleans, and how it gave rise to the uniquely American art form of jazz.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Facing Muslim Stereotypes After September 11

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots provides a look at Muslim stereotypes and anti-Muslim sentiments following the terrorist attacks of September 11. Sheik Yasir Qadhi reflects on his personal experiences with anti-Muslim feelings and the injustice of stereotypes.

    Grades: 10-12
  • Faith and Rebellion

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots features Maggie Gyllenhaal as she learns more about her father’s family’s religion, Swedenborgianism. A background of the religion is provided and Maggie discusses her father’s rejection of the religion. Ultimately, his rejection of Swedenborgianism related to the cultural shift of the 1950s and 1960s when young people rebelled against traditions and the “American” identity was truly founded.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Founding Mothers

    In this video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Professor Henry Louis Gates traces Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Jewish ancestors back thousands of years to the four “founding mothers” in Jewish history. The segment explains why DNA allows Professor Gates to trace Gyllenhaal’s family back so far.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Free, but not Free: Life of Free Blacks before the Civil War

    This hands-on, media-enhanced lesson explores the life of free blacks in the United States prior to the Civil War using video segments from Finding Your Roots.

    Grades: 9-11
  • Growing up under Jim Crow in Birmingham, Alabama

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots features Condoleezza Rice as she reflects on growing up in Birmingham, Alabama during the era of Jim Crow. Rice recalls the day four young African American girls were killed when a bomb was detonated at their church.

    Grades: 8-11
  • Growing up under Jim Crow in Grapeland, Texas

    In this video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Ruth Simmons shares what life was like growing up in Grapeland, Texas, as the daughter of sharecroppers. Simmons’s family moved to Houston in the early 1950s. She says her family’s move to Houston was life-changing. Children were required to attend school in Houston; had the Simmons family stayed in Grapeland, Ruth would have been expected to quit school and help her family in the field.

    Grades: 8-11
  • Growing up under Jim Crow in Piedmont, West Virginia and Chattanooga, Tennessee

    In this video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Samuel L. Jackson talks about what life was like growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the era of Jim Crow. Jackson shares details about the racism he and his family faced living in the South.

    Grades: 8-11
  • The Last Conquistador

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots examines the Spanish colonization of New Mexico and details the history of the “Last Conquistador”. Spanish colonization of New Mexico was often very violent and oppressive. Mixing of Spanish colonists and Native Americans was relatively common, but due to the mixed race children resulting from such relationships, the Spanish colonists developed a class system to ensure the “whitest” people stayed in charge.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Leaving Poland

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots features Martha Stewart as she learns the fate of her great-grandparents. Stewart’s grandmother rarely discussed her life in Poland, so she knew little of what had happened to her great-grandparents. Professor Henry Louis Gates’s research determines they were killed during the Polish-Soviet War that broke out in 1919. Six of their eight children, including Stewart's grandmother, ultimately moved to the U.S. to seek better lives.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Most Powerful Instrument

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots features Congressman John Lewis’s recollection of the March on Selma. On March 7, 1965 peaceful protestors gathered to fight for African Americans’ right to vote. The group planned on marching from Selma, AL to Montgomery, AL. The protestors were confronted by police who ordered them to disperse. When the protestors asked for a moment to pray, the police advanced. What began as a peaceful protest turned into a violent one—the day is now known as “Bloody Sunday”.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Mumbet

    In this video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots, the story of Mumbet, is told. Mumbet was a female slave who, after hearing the Declaration of Independence read, decided to seek for her own freedom. Kyra Sedgwick’s ancestor, Theodore Sedgwick, served as Mumbet’s lawyer and helped her ultimately win her freedom.

    Grades: 8-11
  • Only In America

    In this video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots, Congressman John Lewis’s life is explored. In particular, Lewis describes how he became involved in the American civil rights movement and how he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The video segment also describes Lewis’s role in major milestones in the civil rights movement—the Freedom Rides, sit-ins in Nashville, and the March on Washington.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Partition of India

    This video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots provides a brief overview of the partition of India in 1947, when the Muslim state of Pakistan was created. The partition is explored through the personal experience of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s mother, who was a child at the time. Her family was among the fourteen million displaced individuals that resulted from the partition.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Pueblo Revolt

    In this video segment from the PBS series Finding Your Roots, the Pueblo Revolt is explained. Native Americans revolted against Spanish colonists who were imposing their culture and religion. As a result, the Spaniards were banished for twelve years. However, they eventually returned and took control of the region.

    Grades: 9-12

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