Skip to main content
About PBS
AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES, A Four-Hour Documentary Series Tracing Black History Through Genealogy and DNA Science, to Premiere February 2006 on PBS
Email share

Renowned Scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. To Serve As Series Host

Co-Produced By Thirteen/WNET New York And Kunhardt Productions


Beverly Hills, CA, July 13 - A compelling combination of storytelling and science, AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES is an unprecedented four-hour series on PBS that takes Alex Haley's Roots saga to a whole new level. The series will profile some of the most accomplished African-Americans of our time, using genealogy and DNA to trace their roots down through American history and back to Africa. Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois professor of the Humanities and chair of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University, AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES will premiere in February 2006 on PBS. The series is a co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York and Kunhardt Productions Inc.

Dr. Gates will provide access to the day-to-day lives of several prominent African-Americans, drawing on photographs, film clips, music, and early personal records, while a team of researchers, genealogists and forensic DNA analysts will conduct investigations into their family histories. By spotlighting African-American role models, the series hopes to inspire millions to consider their own heritage, and underscore for all Americans the importance of knowing their past, in order to unlock the future.

"This is one of the most exciting projects in which I have been involved," said Dr. Gates. "No television series has explored black roots both in America and in Africa and used DNA research to investigate the origins of individual African-Americans. AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES will be a great way to introduce young people to the marvels of archival and scientific research and their practical applications. I hope that this project will encourage them - and all Americans, especially those of African descent - to explore their roots."

"PBS is thrilled to be working with Dr. Gates again," said Jacoba Atlas, senior vice president and co-chief programming executive for PBS. "AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES, following in the tradition of projects like Wonders of the African World and America Beyond the Color Line, demonstrates PBS's ongoing commitment to presenting the diverse experiences of all Americans - as well as its commitment to programs that can't be found anywhere else."

"We're incredibly excited about this project, which will be unlike anything viewers have experienced before," said Tamara E. Robinson, vice president and director of programming for Thirteen/WNET. "AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES will be extremely dramatic television, but with an important purpose, as viewers will join these women and men as they unearth revealing new truths about their heritage."

For some Americans, the essential question "Where do I come from?" cannot be answered; their history has been lost or stolen. But through its genealogical detective work and groundbreaking DNA analysis, AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES will not only provide a transformational discovery for several prominent African-Americans, but also serve as an example for all Americans of the empowerment derived from knowing their heritage.

To reconstruct the family trees of its participants, AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES is working in conjunction with, a leading Internet-based genealogy firm with one of the largest online collections of family history records. Among the scientists involved in the series' DNA analysis is Dr. Rick Kittles, an associate professor at Ohio State University and co-founder of the ancestry-tracing firm African Ancestry, Inc., whose database contains over 20,000 lineages from more than 389 indigenous African populations; molecular geneticist Dr. Bruce Jackson of the non-profit African-American DNA "Roots Project"; and Dr. Mark Shriver, associate professor of Anthropology & Genetics at Penn State University. Innovative new analytical techniques are also being developed for the project by DNA Print Genomics Inc. in conjunction with the Santa Clara-based biotechnology firm Affymetrix.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES will be accompanied by a community outreach and educational component. Furthermore, a vibrant companion Web site will feature a beginner's guide to tracing one's own family tree, giving visitors step-by-step guidance in how to research their own past. The online component will also provide background on the science and scholarship featured in the series, extended interviews with series guests, and interactive learning tools that will appeal to all age levels.

Major funding for AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES is provided by The Procter & Gamble Company and The Coca-Cola Company.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIVES is a co-production of Thirteen/WNET New York and Kunhardt Productions. The project's producers are Leslie Asako Gladsjo and Jesse Sweet. Its senior producers are Leslie D. Farrell, Graham Judd and Dyllan McGee. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., William R. Grant and Peter Kunhardt are executive producers.

About PBS
PBS is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation's 348 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of educational services for adult learners. Video resources for educators are available at PBS's premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (, continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet. PBS is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

About Thirteen/WNET New York
Thirteen/WNET New York is one of the key program providers for public television, bringing such acclaimed series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, Wide Angle, Stage on Screen, Secrets of the Dead, and Cyberchase - as well as the work of Bill Moyers - to audiences nationwide. As the flagship public broadcaster in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metro area, Thirteen reaches millions of viewers each week, airing the best of American public television along with its own local productions such as The Ethnic Heritage Specials, The Thirteen Walking Tours, New York Voices, and Reel New York. With educational and community outreach projects that extend the impact of its television productions, Thirteen takes television "out of the box." And as broadcast and digital media converge, Thirteen is blazing trails in the creation of Web sites, enhanced television, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, educational software, and other cutting-edge media products. More information about Thirteen can be found at:

About Kunhardt Productions
Kunhardt Productions Inc. is an independent production company with a reputation for innovative programming and high editorial standards. Founded in 1989 by ABC News veteran Peter W. Kunhardt, the company's critically-acclaimed programs have garnered many awards, including a National Emmy. Recent productions include Mandate: The People and the President for PBS; and Freedom: A History of US, an eight-hour PBS series based upon Joy Hakim's award-winning books. Other notable works include: My Brother and I, a one-hour documentary (Bravo 2003) based on Robert Kennedy's oral history of President Kennedy's administration; In Memoriam, a one-hour co-production with HBO and Brad Grey Television; Violence: An American Tradition (HBO, 1995-nominated for two national Emmy awards); The American President, a ten-hour PBS series profiling the forty-one Presidents of the United States; The Perfect Baby (an ABC News/Barbara Walters Special on genetic engineering, 1990-winner of the National Association of Science Writers Award); and JFK: In His Own Words (HBO, 1989-winner of a national Emmy award for outstanding programming).

About The Procter & Gamble Company
Two billion times a day, P&G brands touch the lives of people around the world. The company has one of the strongest portfolios of trusted, quality, leadership brands, including Pampers, Tide, Ariel, Always, Whisper, Pantene, Bounty, Pringles, Folgers, Charmin, Downy, Lenor, Iams, Crest, Actonel, Olay, Clairol Nice 'n Easy, Head & Shoulders, and Wella. Since the early 1900s, P&G has developed and supported programs to enrich the lives of African-Americans. Throughout the United States, local P&G programs and partnerships have had a positive impact - fulfilling aspirations, providing opportunity, and preserving the rich culture of African-Americans. For more information on P&G's longstanding and committed relationship with the African-American community and the latest news and in-depth information about P&G and its brands, visit

About The Coca-Cola Company
The Coca-Cola Company is the world's largest beverage company. Along with Coca-Cola, recognized as the world's most valuable brand, the Company markets four of the world's top five soft drink brands, including Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite, and a wide range of other beverages, including diet and light soft drinks, waters, juices and juice drinks, teas, coffees and sports drinks. Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company's beverages at a rate exceeding 1 billion servings each day. For more information about The Coca-Cola Company, please visit our website at .




Donna Williams, Thirteen/WNET New York; 212.560.8030;

Gloria Park, Thirteen/WNET New York; 212.560.2063;