Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Latest PBS Project – “Faces of America”


    Presented and written by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. ?Faces of America? takes the quest begun in ?African American Lives? and ?African American Lives 2? to a new level to provide an understanding of American identity and history

    NEW YORK, NY? June 30, 2009 ? America is a nation of immigrants, and the richly diverse racial, ethnic, cultural and religious heritage that truly defines the American experience is the focus of Faces of America, a new four-part PBS series from the producers of African American Lives (2006), Oprah?s Roots (2007), African American Lives 2 (2008), and most recently Looking for Lincoln (2009).

    Since 2006, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr has been helping people find long-buried details of their recent and distant ancestries by restoring the branches of their individual family trees and then analyzing their DNA. Faces of America expands the role of DNA science to take the exploration of identity to an entirely new level. The series will film the sequencing of the full human genome for two of the series? participants ? a scientific and filmic first ? to reveal detailed information about their ancestral make up. Currently in production throughout Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia, anticipate broadcast of Faces of America on PBS in 2010.

    ?We will reveal in rich detail the fascinating stories about our guests?s ancestors, both since their arrival as immigrants to the United States, and before their arrival here, in the countries from which they emigrated,? says Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. ?We hope to show how immigration of peoples from around the globe so profoundly has reshaped what it means to be ?an American? and continues to affect how we talk about identity throughout our society today.?

    Global in scope, Faces of America will look beyond the black experience to explore American identity with guests who are Asian, Hispanic, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Syrian, West Indian, and Native American. Joining Professor Gates in this new series are poet Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and read the poem at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, chef Mario Batali, comedian and television personality Stephen Colbert, writer Junot Diaz, writer Louise Erdrich, writer Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, cellist Yo Yo Ma, writer and director Mike Nichols, former monarch of Jordan Queen Noor, actress Meryl Streep, and Olympic gold medalist and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

    Too expensive for popular use, to date, less than 20 people have had their entire genome sequenced. Working with Illumina and Knome and geneticists at the Broad Institute and the Harvard Medical School, Faces of America will make medical history by filming the sequencing and interpretation of the genomes ? six billion base pairs ? of Professor Gates and his father, Henry Louis Gates, Sr. In addition, each guest will undergo dense genotyping to trace their father?s line, mother?s line and their admixture (that is their percentages of European, Asian, Native American, and African ancestry).

    Faces of America will reveal to viewers and to the guests themselves their rich family stories, tracing them back to their arrival on America?s shores, and beyond: deep into the history of their countries of origin. In doing so, the series will show how America is the vibrant result of the confluence of many rich civilizations.

    Faces in America is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG in association with Ark Media.

    Henry Louis Gates, Jr., William R. Grant, Peter Kunhardt, and Dyllan McGee are executive producers. Senior producer is Barak Goodman.



    Donna Williams, WNET.ORG 212.560.8030, williamsd@wnet.org