Monday, October 6, 2014
Anderson Cooper, Ken Burns and Anna Deavere Smith on "Finding Your Roots"
Anderson Cooper, while very much aware that his mother, designer Gloria Vanderbilt, descends from industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt—one of the richest men in American history—the CNN news anchor knew little of the family history of his father, screenwriter Wyatt Cooper. Through Gates, he learns that his paternal ancestors were struggling cotton farmers in Mississippi, though a fourth great-grandfather in Alabama, Burwell Boykin, owned several slaves, including one who killed the slave master.
Ken Burns, much praised for his documentaries on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, learns of his connection to both. His relatives served in the Confederacy, and Lincoln was the filmmaker’s fifth cousin four times removed. Like Cooper, Burns’s ancestors were slave owners. He also discovered that he had relatives who fought on both sides of the American Revolution.
Anna Deavere Smith can trace her roots from slaves, but she was surprised when Gates revealed that she also descends from a long line of free people as well. One of those ancestors, noted for being “the wealthiest Afro-American in Gettysburg,” amassed 120 acres. He would, however, risk his fortune to help others achieve freedom.
Both Burns and Smith make other surprising discoveries when Gates presents results of their DNA testing. The episode airs October 7 on PBS at 8-9 p.m. (ET).