Lee Discovers Slave Roots On Genealogy Show

Hollywood filmmaker SPIKE LEE paid a touching tribute to his ancestors on hit U.S. genealogy show WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? after learning he is descended from slaves.
The Malcolm X director took an emotional journey to Atlanta, Georgia for the series, in which celebrities trace their family trees.
And Lee was stunned to discover a link between his enslaved great-great grandfather, Mars, and a character from his breakthrough film She's Gotta Have It.
He explains, "When I was writing the script for She's Gotta Have It, I was stuck for the name of the character and I called my grandmother up and said, 'I need a name.' She came (up) with this - Mars... It fit because Mars in the film is crazy. That's insane. My great-great-grandfather's name is Mars."
Upon discovering Mars had purchased 80 acres of land after he was freed of slavery, Lee travelled there to bury a necklace he wore in the film with Mars' name inscribed on it.
Crediting his ancestors with inspiring his career, he added, "This is it. That was the spirit that made me pick up the phone and say (to my grandmother), 'Mama, I need a name.' That was the spirit of Mars that made that happen."
In another surprising moment, Lee learned that he has a Caucasian relative - and decided to meet Guinevere Grier, a white woman who is the filmmaker's cousin twice removed.
He told Grier, "Throughout the years I would just be in an airport anywhere in America seeing random white Americans, saying and think to myself, I could be related to them. I never thought anymore about that but now it's hit me in the face. I'm on your couch and we're cousins."
The experience has inspired Lee to make a new film about his enslaved ancestors.
He adds, "I've always known who I am, but now I know more. The journey's been very meaningful. It's a living record of my ancestors on my mother's side of the family. Hopefully in the future I (will) do a film... that deals with the complexities that happened on the plantation."


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SDhoward's picture

SDhoward

It was great to watch the clip, especially, since Ms. Lucinda Jackson is my paternal father's great grandmother, also. Spike visited my Uncle George Wshington during one of his visit's to Dublin. I wish he would have included a clip of his family who currently lives on Roberts Street in Dublin, GA in this clip, especially since his grandmother and my dad's mother, Ms. Annie Mae Jackson Washington--(daughter of Wilson and Polly Jackson) were close cousins.
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John C. Meiller's picture

John C. Meiller

I saw Bill Bragg,the Director for Georgia Studies at the Georgia College and State University, on a PBS television program discussing Spike Lee's Confederate Ancestry which was quite interesting. We don't get to pick our ancestors so he was a little disappointed to learn that he may be a descendant of a slave and master. Bragg made the point that it is ironic that his slave ancestor was working in a factory that made Colt revolvers that would be used against his liberators. That assessment works for many people 150 years after the fact but it is not historically accurate. Federal Troops were used to put down what the government called a Rebellion, not to free the slaves. In fact Union Commanders did not free the slaves until after the war was over even when they occupied Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The Emancipation Proclamation applied only to Southern States and was more of a military strategy than that of a liberator. The wife of U.S. Grant owned slaves until the end of the Civil War because as she said "good help is hard to find".History is written by the victors where a lot of the facts never get much play. The Civil War was more about domination of the South as evidenced by Reconstruction, than the liberation of slaves. Had Lincoln declared from the beginning that he invaded Virginia to free the slaves, he would not have been able to raise the army in the numbers that he did. In 1858 Lincoln said" I am not in favor of making jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office...I am not in favor of Negro citizenship." After the election of 1860Lincoln said" Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would directly or indirectly interfere with their slaves or with them about their slaves? If they do I wish to assure you...that there is no cause for such fears." In the Dred Scott decision of March 6, 1857 the Cheif Justice declared for the majority: "Dred Scott was a slave, not a citizen, hence he had no rights under the Constitution, which was made by whites for whites." That was not a Southern declation but one by the Supreme Court. If the Federal Government is given the title of Liberator it should also include some of the messy baggage that goes with it. I'm certain that Spike Lee would also appreciate a more complete historical picture as well. Posted
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