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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Spike Lee explores his Georgia roots on tonight’s NBC show ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Spike LeeTonight, filmmaker Spike Lee will journey through the South to explore his ancestral roots on the NBC shot “Who Do You Think You Are?” And he digs through parts of Middle Georgia to find out.

The Morehouse College grad’s grandmother lived in Dublin, GA. In the first 10 minutes of the episode I screened, he goes down to Dublin and meets Atlanta University Center assistant archivist Melvin Collier at the Dublin library to get information about his great great grandmother Lucinda Jackson, who was born into slavery and died in 1934.

Collier, who said he spent eight hours with Lee that day, helped him find a newspaper obituary for Jackson, which named her three sons (including his great grandfather) but not Lucinda’s husband. He found the name on the death certificate, which was Mars.

11.nike.nolaHe named his character in his first major film “She’s Gotta Have It” Mars, inspired by his grandmother, who died in 2006 at age 100. He recalled her saying that Mars was the name of a “crazy uncle” but “she probably said he was a crazy grandfather.” Mars in the film is crazy, he noted.

Lee then goes to the Georgia Archives in Atlanta to find more information about Mars, another man born as a slave. He found out they were using Woodall in the 1880 census, that he changed his name to Jackson later.

The archivist Lee was working with surmises that his family may have been owned by James Woodall, a slave owner. He eventually found out his great great grandfather Mars owned 80 acres after he was freed from slavery. (Lee calls his production company “40 Acres and a Mule,” a reference to providing arable land to former slaves after the Civil War.)

Lee shows up on the land Mars had owned. “Red Georgia clay,” Lee mused. “In tribute to Mars, I had sent to me what I wore in my first film, ‘She’s Gotta Have It.’ ”

“To go from a slave to a land owner?” Lee said. “Now I know where my family gets that entrepreneurial spirit!”

Lee later investigates his slave ancestors, discovering he may be a descendant of a slave owner.  He meets a possible relative he didn’t expect to find.

“I always knew who I am,” he said. “Now I know more.”

On TV

“Who Do You Think You Are?” 8 p.m. on NBC Friday

35 comments Add your comment

Bob

April 30th, 2010
2:04 pm

Ahhhhhh yes…investigate slavery of the ancestors…learn more about it. Another attempt by liberal whites at NBC to try and make white viewers feel “guilty” about slavery and black viewers feel “entitled” by using Spike Lee as their tool…all in the name of pushing their self-serving political agenda.

Rodney Ho

April 30th, 2010
2:07 pm

NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” also has featured Sarah Jessica Parker, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon and Emmitt Smith.

Michael

April 30th, 2010
2:55 pm

Obviously not everybody feels the same way about him. I never really got past the idea that he honestly thought that the majority of tv viewers would think that SpikeTv was a premium channel of his movies & original programming.

However, if this answers some personal questions and helps him to understand his family and life, good for him.

GA Native

April 30th, 2010
3:38 pm

What a season finale! Got my DVR set to record.

?

April 30th, 2010
3:40 pm

Bob,

Slavery denial and American Apartheid denial are both really cruel. People are entitled to investigate their past, even if they are black.

Eraserhead

April 30th, 2010
3:40 pm

Thanks Rodney. I’ve always liked Spike Lee. His films do make you think and he can be very funny as well.

DAG

April 30th, 2010
3:41 pm

BORING….BORING…..WOW, descendant of slaves….go figure….sooooo interesting…..who cares? HA, he has some white in him!!! whitey!

jp

April 30th, 2010
4:00 pm

wow, a racist finding out he is cousins with white people. go figure…

Haile Selassie I

April 30th, 2010
4:09 pm

Bob, Bob, Bob,

I don’t think NBC is trying to make anyone feel guilty or entitled. Its simply a show about Spike researching his lineage. Is that ok? I don’t have a problem with you tracing your lineage back to Imhotep so whats the problem?

Rusty

April 30th, 2010
4:30 pm

Ughhh….it’s embarrassing to admit he’s a Georgian. Glad he’s gone.

Rusty

April 30th, 2010
4:31 pm

Clark, will we understand as well as you understand the English language?

Cephus Jackson Lee

April 30th, 2010
4:47 pm

Not only is Spike descended from a slave owning cracker, his great-great-great grandpa, Mars Hill Woodall, was a Confederate Negro that rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest, killing Yankees and fightin fo the South. Yowsa!

lkjlkj

April 30th, 2010
5:04 pm

wow Bob, you’re a hardcore redneck.

Y.T.

April 30th, 2010
6:23 pm

Yo, Spike. Get a DNA swab and learn about your European heritage.

K-Star

April 30th, 2010
7:05 pm

OK, OK… when anyone mentions Spike Lee, why is it it goes into a frenzy of nearly uninformed debate? For the record, I’m white and still would say that based upon the films of his I’ve seen, I couldn’t exactly call Spike Lee a hardcore racist. Taking a look at movies like “Do The Right Thing,” which portray interracial friendships and can show that blacks and whites are just as equally guilty to acting violently based on prejudice, I think Spike is just a guy who writes about the good and bad in all people he sees. That’s the message I got out of it. He’s just one of the few producers or directors out there that have the testicular fortitude to put together a film that can pretty much make everyone “look bad.” Now, himself being African-American, it is only natural that he would tell the story in the perspective of an African-American character. No different from how Dito Montiel featured “A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints” from an Italian-American viewpoint.

I just see this as a way of Spike Lee tracing his ancestral past, which anyone is entitled to do. It probably shall be pretty interesting to watch. I honestly think that if it is 2010 and anyone is feeling personally guilty about slavery, they’ve got issues. It did happen in the past, and there is no denying that. But after 150 years and the generations responsible being long gone, we should be worried about today’s issues while learning from the past, but at the same time not pointing fingers of blame for something no one here today actually witnessed.

goodMan

April 30th, 2010
9:14 pm

–NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” also has featured Sarah Jessica Parker, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon and Emmitt Smith

ew, this looks like a line-up of the most liberal people in hollywood. typical of NBC. why didn’t you trace the ancestry of brian williams while you were at it? no wonder no one watches NBC

Joanne Emery

April 30th, 2010
9:14 pm

Dear Mr. Lee
I admire you putting your life right out there. I wish “Roots” by Alex Haley was shown in every school. Why don’t people realize what black people have been through? Why don’t they see that black people have put their LIVES on the line back in the 1950’s? Because history books have it all wrong. Do you know that black people were instrumental in the Revolutionary War? Do you ever realize without black patriots we wouldn’t have WON any of the wars that were fought in this country and World War I, II, and Vietnam? Please, Please, be a patriot now, and save this country. We are now being enslaved by socialists. Do you think it was an accident that Mexican borders were opened and all of these foreigners were brought in? How many black people do you know that own gas stations? Party Stores? Donut shops? Restaurants? Are doctors? Dentists? Nail Salons? What happened to the Black movement of the 1960’s? Al Gore. Bill Clinton. The “Browning” of America. This is what happened. Now the Hispanics have moved in, and the Black people are the ones who suffered, second again to the Mexicans, Arabs, Asians, etc, who the Democrats wanted to put down the blacks. When are the Black people going to take their power back? It is not with Barack Obama. He is WITH the Gore and Clinton people. Black people have been fooled, just like all of the Democratic party. Please join an independent group. Break these chains of poverty and injustice. Lead the way, it may be your last chance for freedom.

Cass

April 30th, 2010
9:15 pm

How sad. Reading some of these comments, I see that racism is still alive and well in the USA. Wouldn’t it be interesting if some of the ‘white’ people who have commented found out they were related to black people, way back? IMO, the program was fascinating and very moving.

jlk

April 30th, 2010
9:23 pm

OMG Bob! Get over it. This story isn’t abput liberals and isn’t trying to make anyone feel guilty. Geez.

goodMan

April 30th, 2010
9:38 pm

yes racism is back and alive in the US thanks to liberals who are so obsessed about race, and blacks who can’t see straight without accusing someone they don’t know of being racist. how sad

Pete

April 30th, 2010
10:09 pm

Spike, it was a very interesting show, especially the part about Sherman’s destruction of the confederate pistol factory where your ancestor worked. My great grandfather was a Union soldier with the Iowa 9th Infantry, marching with General Sherman’s army through Georgia. He told my mother when she was a child that they ate fresh oysters with salt when they finally got to the sea, and that some of her history book accounts of the civil war were “gall-durn lies”.

Mary

May 1st, 2010
1:24 am

2 things that I picked up on for Spike Lee to persue:
1) the 5 slaves that were taken by General Sherman and army could have been well-versed in weaponry and to have them would help make and repair guns needed for the campaign.

2) A lot of census were being discussed so I hope I have them straight, but a clue was missed.
Where it showed the slave owner and a list of individuals by age (no name), make the one they thought was 33 years of age and go back to approximate date of birth (year) and follow that person forward – to the census where she appears as a ‘cook’ ,etc. The year with no name shows the AGE and follow backwards from the year of census – to get date of birth year.

Great show – I love it!
Kodiak Alaska

Gwen

May 1st, 2010
1:58 am

By some of the comments here, you’d think that Hollywood thought up this series to promote it’s “liberal” views…it’s actually a copy of a BBC series in the UK (http://www.bbc.co.uk/whodoyouthinkyouare/welcome.shtml).

The people who actually do the reasearch and approach the celebrities to take the research further are looking for something interesting in the person’s past…whether it’s an ancestor who was a slave/slave owner, royalty, in the civil war, the salem witch trials, you name it. It’s good TV. If they don’t find anything interesting in the celebrity’s past, they don’t air anything…that’s happened more than once.

I thought the Spike Lee episode was interesting…in fact I thought all of them were interesting.

pheasantplucker

May 1st, 2010
12:06 pm

goodMan (how ironic your handle is)

I am confused. Are saying Bob is a liberal? After all, he was the one whose knee-jerk reaction to NBC airing a program about a successful black American was to alert the rest of us of NBC’s agenda to make whites feel guilty and blacks feel entitled. Truth be told, Bob’s readiness to characterize NBC’s attempt to garner ratings (their real agenda) by having a variety of well known Americans trace their ancestries (and thus explore interesting aspects of American history) as pushing a liberal political agenda is the exact opposite of the conclusion you have jumped to. Like holocaust deniers who seem to be deeply disturbed by the fact that Hitler’s attempt to wipe out millions of Jews, ultimately failed, there are people like you and Bob, who are apparently so bothered by the fact that the South’s attempt to protect the institution of slavery failed you feel defensive and resentful of the majority of others who have a different perspective. In short, you apparently are sore LOSERS (note the emphasis on losers). Although I am white (but who knows what evil lurks in anyone’s genes considering the tens of thousands of years of migrations, conquests, and commerce humans have experienced) I am not ashamed of my race just because of a few are Birthers, Tea Baggers, bigots, etc. I don’t feel white guilt over slavery because I know that there were plenty of white people during that period that understood how wrong it was and who ultimately, if belatedly, stood up, fought and died for what was right. I suggest to you and Bob, that by realigning yourself with all the people who get that subjugating, oppressing, owning, or hating other groups people because of their skin color is stupid and wrong you just might feel as proud as Mr. Lee that after exploring his roots (which apparently include both black and white ancestors) he can say, “I always knew who I am, now I know more.” Kudos to NBC for contriving a show that cleverly exploits our interest in celebrities and uses the threads of their personal histories to remind us and educate us about the vast and varied tapestry of American history.

Martin

May 1st, 2010
1:52 pm

(applauding Cass, pheasantplucker and K-Star)

Bob, Rusty and anyone else who might actually see their POVs — the shape of the world has changed, and that leaves you with three options.

1) Climb aboard and help.

2) Get out of the way.

3) Prepare to get run over.

Martin

May 1st, 2010
2:05 pm

Regarding my previous comment, I can see the possible implication of violence.

Please, my apologies for such, if perceived, because none was intended. My observation stems from the fact that, in Nature, things resistant to change are ofttimes plowed under by that oncoming change. Ask the dodo.

Ellen

May 1st, 2010
3:16 pm

Just a matter of interest (at least to me). I had never heard of anyone named “Mars” before last night. This afternoon I began reading the book “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin – a book about Abraham Lincoln. The books notes that Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s “Mars” eventually became secretary of war. Just wondering if Mr. Lee’s Great Great Grandfather could have been named after him.

Roy Hobbs crackpipe

May 1st, 2010
5:23 pm

WAAAAAAAAAA… my ancestors were slaves.. waaaaaaaaaa my grandma had to drink out of a separate water fountain. waaaaaaaaa white man got a promotion. GET OVER IT YOU LOSERS. My ancestors were poor and suffered too. You don’t see me beeotching about it.S*it happens every day to everyone white black asian etc etc etc

BLAME WHITEY

Cass

May 1st, 2010
5:27 pm

ROFLMAO @ Roy Hobbs. Such a comedian; have you thought of a career on stage? Thanks for the laughs!

Spike Lee

May 1st, 2010
5:51 pm

Now that I know I descend from crackers, I must get a blood transfusion.

Martin

May 1st, 2010
6:27 pm

Eh, Roy… give me a call when you’ve got a glorious natural tan to match mine, and no one treats you any differently.

Given those parameters, I figure I’ll never be hearing from you again…

Sharon

May 2nd, 2010
1:39 pm

I enjoyed the series and I hope it comes back for many more seasons. It does not surprise me about the negative reactions some people have about the mere telling of the African American enslavement or any negative comments about America’s history. Many want it to go away and paint a very different picture of America’s history. It is what it is, it will not go away, oral history, documents and people keep the facts alive. The truth once told is not to scare you or condemn you, but to teach and heal. Every American family has a path that lead then to America. I hope we continue to tell our collective story. Hello to all cousins twice removed :-) maybe one day we will meet.

mac

May 2nd, 2010
3:05 pm

This series has meant a great deal to me as one of Scot-Irish and Swiss heritage. Knowing the conditions and times of our ancestors add meaning to who we are and how we got to be where we are today. During this series I’ve come to understand what it must feel like to be on the other side of the slavery issue and come to understand how harshly slaves were treated as if they were less than animals. We Southerners must learn from the mistakes of our past if we are to survive into our futures. Some white people on this blog must have been bred to remain a waste of skin with their archaic beliefs. Hey Bob, et al, it’s so easy a cave man can do it, even you.

Darryl

May 2nd, 2010
5:37 pm

Darryl A. Whiting Did you know there is a HUGE Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah this weekend by the National Genelogical Society. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/ There are tons and tons of people from every nation gathering with others with the same interests to learn more about how to do what Melvin Collier and others did for Spike Lee. I am disappointed about … See Morehow our history is being inaccurately left on record to the point – tht I am taking a positive approach to do something about it. Let me be more specific, the other day, I visited my County’s Historical Society in the City in which I live. I was so impressed with all of this counties history; I saw pictures of the Caddo; Native Americans, a incredible display of the early settlers,many, many displays on how the U.S. has progressed to the place it is today; a spinning wheel, huts and teepees, even saw a water pot that dates back to the year 1200. Guess what I did not see? Not one display, article, pamphlet, etc. about the life of a slave or life on the plantation in this County. So what does this say to me? That slavery did not exist here in ths County? Or does it say that you and I have work to do. We know it existed and if we are not careful we will allow someone else to write our history for us. You know what happens when you leave something as important as history in the hands of others. LOL, remember that old saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” I think that is all I am saying. Now go get a digital recorder and start talking to your parents, grand-parents and great-grand parents.

Beavis

May 15th, 2010
10:00 pm

I dont know why all these so called americans are getting upset because they seen or heard about a black american researching his history. All that was is american history. And u dont see Spike bitching about his heritage. He makes multi-million dollar movies. I wonder what crack pipe Bob does for a living?