Listen: Historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. On DNA Testing And Finding His Own Roots
"Research at Harvard and has produced numerous books and documentaries about African American history. Terry spoke to Henry Louis gates in front of an audience last may when he was in Philadelphia to receive WHYY's annual lifelong learning. Because you talked to everybody about their genealogy. I wanted to talk with you about yours, and what you learned about yourself and the larger meaning of what you've learned about yourself. I don't want to start with the person who got you started engineer allergy. It was really it's like the photograph of her of your great. Great aunt, Jane gates, and you regret grandma. Great grandma. Yeah. Thank you. So I wanna read something that you wrote about her and you got this from the eighteen seventy cents. The Jane gates, h fifty one female mulatto laundry and nurse owns real estate valued at fourteen hundred dollars born in Maryland cannot read or write now she was born in eighteen nineteen died in eighteen eighty eight or nine years old when you found her picture and got this information from the eighteen seventy census so reading this Milwaukee. Oh, she'd been a slave the first question that comes to my mind. And I don't know if it was the first question that Cam to yours was wishy raped by the man who owned her. I can't believe you asked this question. Because is that you personal. It's a horrible way to start the average African American the average African American is twenty four percent European. Now think about that. And most DNA companies in the United States will tell you that they have never tested an African American who was one hundred percent from sub Saharan Africa. This is called an admixture test it measures your ancestry back five hundred years approximately. So what that means is that it's the percentage of if you had a perfect family, treat what percent would be from sub Saharan Africa. What percent would be from Europe or percent would be native American African American love to joke about this African Americans all think that they are descended from a native American and every American has less than one percent native American ancestry, but they have twenty four percent European ancestry. So where's that come from? It comes from slavery. Was this an equal sexual relationship? Of course, not. So obviously rape or at best cajoled sexuality was the cause. But there are exceptions. When I did Morgan Freeman. Wins family tree. It was obvious through his DNA that he was descended from a white man who was an overseer on a plantation in Mississippi, and we knew the name of his great great grandmother in the name of this white man, so overseer slave plantation rape. Right. Except in the next scene. I showed him their headstones there were very nice to each other. As soon as the civil war ended. They became common-law husband and wife, which was illegal Mississippi. They live together they had kids in their very next to each other. So let's get back to you, Greg, Greg. Greg. So you assume it was not a consensual relationship, but she managed to own her own home five years after being freed from slave for which he paid cash. So you don't do that. Because of this white man, you don't get fourteen hundred dollars by saving your nickels and dimes a slave, right? Yeah. So obviously somebody gave that money she paid cash for that house in what was largely a white neighborhood and our family my cousin. Johnny gates. So said house to this thing, it was just put on historic register in Maryland, and that cool thing, but I saw that photograph and read her obituary on the day that we buried my father's father Edward Saint Lawrence gates, and the obituary said died this thing Cumberland, Maryland, January six eighteen eighty eight aunt Jane gates, and estimable colored woman and that night, and then daddy showed my brother and me. Dr Paul gates now chief of dentistry Bronx. Eleven in hospital. Very impressive. Well, it's the spirit of my mother. I could have won the Nobel prize and somebody said, congratulations. My mother was tell them about your brother who's."