Saturday, May 1, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

Last night I watched the final episode of the new genealogy series, "Who Do You Think You Are?" As you may recall that is the new spin-off show of the the British series that documents the ancestry of national celebrities.

Last night's show featured the African American film-maker, Spike Lee. It was an excellent show. Spike with the help of several genealogists was able to uncover and trace his family back to the slavery era. He learned that one of his maternal great-great grandfathers, Mars Woodall Jackson had Georgia roots and that he was formally owned by a Plantation Owner bearing the surname Woodall. He also discovered that after slavery, his grandfather changed his surname from Woodall to Jackson. Additionally, he retrieved land records documenting the ownership of 80 plus acres in Georgia. A very moving moment came when Spike visited and set foot on the actual land that his ancestor owned and farmed. It was a very poignant moment for him as well as myself when he collected red clay dirt to take back home as a reminder of who he came from. This was especially meaningful to me as I too come from the Red Clay Dirt land of Louisiana. Irony presented itself with Spike learning of his ancestor, Mars Woodall Jackson because it was also the name of the main character in his first film. The idea for the name came from his grandmother and benefactor, Lucinda Jackson but he just learned the full history of its origin.

Later in the show, Spike traced another ancestor by the name of Wilson Griswald who was owned by a slaveowner bearing the same name in Griswaldville. It turned out that he was one of the largest slaveowners in the area. Legal documents suggest that Wilson was a skilled slave who highly valued by his slaveowner. Spike learned that Wilson worked in a firearms factory in Griswaldsville where weapons were manufactured, primarily by slaves, for the Confederate Army. The factory was destroyed during the Civil War by none other than General Sherman and his army since it was the largest producer of guns for the Confederate Army. Again, it was a stirring moment when a historian handed Spike Lee an actual gun produced in the factory. Unfortunately, all records of Wilson Griswald after the destruction of the weapons factory disappear. Hence, it is not known whether or not he was killed in the factory or taken captive by Sherman's army since there is record that 5 Negroes were captured and taken with his company.

The show ended with a reunion between Spike and a white descendant of the Griswald slave owner. The pair appeared initially uneasy during their meeting but came to a meeting of the minds that slavery was a terrible atrocity.

Anyway, it was a very enjoyable finale show. I says kudos to "Who Do You Think You Are" and for doing such a great job presenting the ancestry of the celebrities who appeared on the show during the season. Another awesome show was the episode that presented the ancestry of football-great, Emmitt Smith.

If you missed the show or any other episodes, you can go to to watch it.

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