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"It is the American story": Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on "In Search of Our Roots"

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More than a work of history, "In Search of Our Roots" is an important book that, for the first time, brings to light the lives of ordinary men and women who, by courageous example, blazed a path for their famous descendants. In accompanying the 19 contemporary achievers on their journey into the past and meeting their remarkable forebears, we come to know ourselves.

I write this in the midst of filming the sixth season of my PBS series "Finding Your Roots." For many of my more than 150 guests on the show and its immediate predecessor, "Faces of America," their family trees provide a window onto not only their own personal histories but onto the history of this country, specifically the crucial role that immigration has played in building and strengthening the United States over centuries. This is true whether a guest’s ancestor arrived on these shores before the American Revolution, when the continent was still a site of colonial settlement and encounter; or fought for (or against) independence in the nation’s first defining war, or took up arms for (or against) the union during its greatest trial; true whether an ancestor landed on American soil........

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