NBC Takes African American History Beyond the Middle Passage

Editor’s Note: Thanks to our intern Deven for another great blog!

NBC recently released a new television show that has many viewers glued every Friday at 8/7c . “Who Do You Think You Are?” takes a personal look inside the family history of some of today’s most adored celebrities. Weekly, the show captures the rich stories of family history and takes celebrities on a journey of self-discovery as they begin to climb their family trees, revealing surprising, inspiring and disastrous stories that are often linked to vital moments in history. While many African American’s run into a brick wall called slavery when delving into their family history, with the help of “Who Do You Think You Are?,” notable African American celebrities like Spike Lee are discovering more about their lineage than they thought possible.

Another notable celebrity featured is Emmitt Smith III , retired Dallas Cowboys running back and one of the greatest football players of all time. Smith’s story begins with how he overcame his poverty through his football career and how he now hopes he can study more about who he truly is. According the Smith, “you need to understand where you were to appreciate where you are.” Smith is determined to connect with his Motherland of Africa and find out how his roots have affected who he is now.

Smith’s experience shows how important his African American history is. He takes his time by going through old census records and visiting local corner markets in Burnt Corn, Alabama. He not only visits local stores in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida but he also explores the shores where his enslaved ancestors were taken from their homeland. Smith’s journey leads him to his fourth-great grandmother who was the daughter of a slave-owner and and was able to keep her family together despite the adversity she faced.

“Who Do You Thing You Are” engages viewers by showing how to dig up their true roots, even those that are difficult to find due to the Middle Passage. For those interested in delving deeper into their family history, be sure to visit Ancestry.com, an online resource with over four billion records. As African Americans, finding out about our family histories can be a sad and arduous task, but as these episodes show, it can also reveal the strength, hope and historical significance of our ancestors.


One response to “NBC Takes African American History Beyond the Middle Passage

  1. Finding out about our family histories for anyone can be sad but it can also be very fufilling and inspiring!
    For more on the first great epiosode with Sarah Jessica Parker and more on her family ties see:

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