The Genealogy Journey

The newbie genealogist's resource for books, mags, databases, and -- of course -- any free research stuff to be found on the Internet.

Friday, February 03, 2006

PBS Documentary on African American Lives -- Part 1

Did anyone else watch this? All I can say is: Wow. What fascinating, tumultuous stories. Families torn apart by slavery. Families struggling against all odds to hold on to their land – and the promise of freedom it guarantees. That’s exactly what I love about genealogy – the stories.

Note: You can get more information on the documentary at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aalives

This first part of the two-part documentary examined the lives of the ancestors back to the Civil War (or the “War Between the States,” as they call it down here). Many of the show’s guests had ancestors who were slaves that lived through the turmoil of Reconstruction.

I’m trying not to get too dramatic here, but watching this show I was struck by how little control all of us have over our own lives. Social conventions, laws, and events shape, mold, and even sometimes imprison us. If you really want to feel like you know your ancestors, you must learn about the historic period when your ancestor lived.

Whoopi Goldberg, one of the guests of the documentary, said of her ancestors:
“If they were born in this time, what would they have been?”

That’s the rub, isn’t it? No matter what we think we could have been if this or that hadn’t happened in our life, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. To get the most out of our life, we have to do the best we can with what we have. This seems obvious when written down, but I’m sure you know many people who still can’t accept their reality.

A saying I made up is:

“It’s not who you are or what you do; it’s what you do with who you are.”

Think about your own life. Are you denying or ignoring certain realities? Is it keeping you from reaching your goals? Remember, we still have the power to change. We may not be able to change reality, but:

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

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