Tag Archives: henry louis gates

Dr. Gates donates his handcuffs to the Smithsonian

None of the black people I know have ever been given their handcuffs as a “You got arrested” souvenir.  Apparently Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. received more than a beer at the White House after his traumatic arrest…on his front porch.   He’s donated the handcuffs used on him to the Smithsonian Institution’s black history museum.  This makes me wonder…what other items will be on display with these handcuffs?

  • One of the night sticks used on Rodney King
  • Handcuffs used on famous African Americans (MLK, Tupac, Diana Ross, etc)
  • A replica of a Montgomery, Alabama jail cell from the Civil Rights era
  • That horrible neck brace will the bells on it that you sometimes see in illustrations found in books on slavery.

What would happen if black males all over the nation requested that they be given their former chains and handcuffs so that they could be donated to the Smithsonian as a testament  to the record incarceration rates of black men in America.  Surely, 50 years…100 years from our children would marvel at the shear size of the collection of metal bonds.  Would they be amazed and say, “There’s no way that so many people of one race could have been accused of/guilty of that much crime!”.  Or perhaps they will just shake their heads and say, “Nothing has changed.”.

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African American Live 2 on PBS

I love this series! I even purchased a DNA kit last year and discovered that my paternal ancestry goes back to Cameroon and my mother’s ancestry is Asian (that was a blower because we know of no Asians in our family…got to love that DNA!) This season explores the genealogy of poet Maya Angelou, author Bliss Broyard, actor Don Cheadle, actor Morgan Freeman, theologian Peter Gomes, publisher Linda Johnson Rice, athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, radio personality Tom Joyner, comedian Chris Rock, music legend Tina Turner, and college administrator Kathleen Henderson, who was selected from more than 2,000 applicants to have her family history researched and DNA tested alongside the series’ well-known guests. The first 2 of the 4 episodes came on last night, but will be re-aired this weekend. Check PBS for your local listing.

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Henry Louis Gates Jr. Helps You Find Out About Your Roots

In 2000, Harvard University Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. sent his DNA to Rick Kittles, a geneticist at Howard University, to trace his ancestry. Dr. Kittles, who has since started a company selling such searches, told Dr. Gates that his maternal lineage could be traced back to Egypt, probably to a member of the Nubian ethnic group.

In 2005, Dr. Gates, an African-American Studies scholar, had his DNA tested again and was told by another commercial genealogy service that his maternal lineage didn’t track to Egypt, or even to Africa. Instead, it went back to a European in colonial America, who historians believe was a white indentured servant.

As Dr. Kittles now concedes, the second version of Dr. Gates’s lineage turned out to be the right one. But the mistakes made by the burgeoning genetic-ancestry industry have continued — prompting Dr. Gates to start his own DNA-tracing company, one that he says will be able to take a more refined look at African-American ancestry.

Dr. Gates’s new company, African DNA LLC, aims to use historians and anthropologists to explain which of various genetic possibilities prompted by DNA traces is more historically likely. For such a search, the new company charges $189, within the $100 to $300 range that’s typical of the genetic-ancestry industry, which now includes at least 10 companies operating via Web sites. For $888, African DNA, which works with Houston-based Genealogy By Genetics Ltd., will include a family tree as far back as census records allow. For most African-Americans, that is usually 1870, when their last names began to be recorded in post-slavery U.S. records.

“I see myself as doing a service for a field that’s deeply problematic, because of the reluctance of some companies to reveal the complexity of the results,” said Dr. Gates, who is director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard, in an interview. He has pledged to donate some of the money that the company earns to an educational effort to teach African history to schoolchildren through DNA analysis.

Source:  Wall Street Journal

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