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Faces of America

Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a new four-part PBS series from the producers of AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES 1 & 2 and LOOKING FOR LINCOLN. The series explores America as a nation of immigrants and the richly diverse racial, ethnic, cultural and religious heritage that truly defines the American experience.

FACES OF AMERICA will be broadcast on February 10, 17, 24, and March 4. Check the Eight, Arizona PBS schedule for broadcast times.

Website From THIRTEEN: Thirteen has created a website that features an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the series, including extra footage and commentary from Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the producers. The website offers resources that viewers can use to learn about their own family histories, as well as information on the research, scholarship and science featured in the program. The website also includes lesson plans and media-rich classroom activities for teachers.


Episode Descriptions

Our American Stories
Episode One will explore the dynamic and shifting relationship America had with her new immigrants in the 20th century. World war tore apart families; and sundered the fabric of many lives; but America beckoned and millions came. Yet, America was an ambivalent host. At its best, a place of refuge and salvation, as for film director Mike Nichols whose entire family escaped Nazi Germany. At its worst, a country that would imprison two generations of Japanese Americans, like the ancestors of Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. Along the way, we'll discover the buoyant American optimism that shaped chance - as in a single encounter that changed musician Yo-Yo Ma's life forever - to pave the road to success.

Becoming American
Episode Two explores the many journeys to becoming American that defined the "Century of Immigration" (1820s - 1924) and transformed the United States from a sleepy agrarian country into a booming industrial power. Stephen Colbert's Irish great-great-grandfather escaped poverty and religious oppression in Limerick and never looked back, whereas Mario Batali's great-grandfather, who left the place where his family had lived for centuries, struggled to survive in the quartz mines of Montana. Her Majesty Queen Noor's Syrian great-grandfather quickly found his footing in New York's first Arab American community, while Kristi Yamaguchi's grandfather faced exclusionary laws and racially-defined barriers to citizenship for decades. The obstacles, short-cuts, tragedies and successes encountered or created by the guests' ancestors from around the world reveal the complexity of our shared history and identity as Americans.

Making America
Episode Three tells the story of the peopling of the New World, of how land came to define the settling and identity of America, and of how the guests' ancestors were part of this history. We discover descriptions of Meryl Streep's eighth great-grandfather, who fought in Metacom's War; records of a land dispute in Spain that pushed Eva Longoria's ancestors to leave for the New World; a treaty that Louise Erdrich's Native American ancestor was forced to sign; and Yo-Yo Ma's family genealogy in China, which gives insights into his identity he has longed for his whole life.

Know Thyself
Episode Four takes up the search for the guests' ancestries where the historical record leaves off and links their distinctive family histories to the broader history of "the family of man." Combining the documented stories of some of the guests' last known ancestors with DNA evidence, the series travels backward through time to reveal both distant relatives and surprising shared ancestral connections. Elizabeth Alexander learns that she is a direct descendent of Charlemagne, and that her paternal roots are not only European, but Jewish. Meryl Streep and Mike Nichols discover that they are distant cousins, as do Yo-Yo Ma and Eva Longoria. Interwoven with these stories and others is the journey of the host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as he and his father and brother undertake an historic project to have their entire genomes mapped, and thereby to learn everything they possibly can about their own family. This episode offers a compelling and thought-provoking meditation on the importance of ancestry, the meaning of family and the role of both in creating identity.


Teacher Training Event Resources

Featured Keynote: Steven L. Packer

Steven L. Packer

Steven L. Packer of the Mesa Family Regional History Center will present Discovering Our Immigrant Roots as the featured keynote for the FACES OF AMERICA Teacher Training Event.

Steven L. Packer (Show biography)

Download Powerpoint Presentation here.


Closing Speaker - Dr. Pamela Marshall

Pamela Marshall

The closing speaker for the day is ASU Life Sciences Professor, Pamela Marshall. Dr. Marshall recently devised a new activity that high school science teachers could use to help their students master the structure and the attributes of DNA. This activity was recently selected to be published on the American Society of Microbiology website.

Professor Pamela Marshall (Show biography)

2 websites referenced in Dr. Marshall’s presentation: Race the Power of Illusion and National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.


Session Presentor - Andrew Yamato

Andrew Yamato

Andrew Yamato of THIRTEEN will present an overview of FACES OF AMERICA and the accompanying resources found online at www.pbs.org/facesofamerica.

Andrew Yamato (Show biography)

Overview of Faces of America


Session Presentor - Janice Fuld

Janice Fuld

Janice Fuld of THIRTEEN will conduct a lesson demonstration using educator resources from the FACES OF AMERICA website including hands on activities.

Janice Fuld (Show biography)

Educator Lesson Plans from Faces of America


In addition to an overview of FACES OF AMERICA broadcast program and website and a hands-on lesson plan demonstration, Eight's Educational Outreach staff provided an overview of our many services and resources. You can find those resources here.

A special thank you to the exhibits of many local cultural organizations that participated. Please explore their websites to find additional resources for your teaching. They include:

Virtual Pioneers in Second Life hosted a Faces of America professional development session in March 2010. Join Virtual Pioneers and get involved with social studies educators internationally!

Find more videos like this on Virtual Pioneers


Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions, Inkwell Films and THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG in association with Ark Media. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., William R. Grant, Peter Kunhardt, and Dyllan McGee are executive producers. Barak Goodman and Sue Williams are senior producers.

Corporate funding is provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Johnson & Johnson. Additional funding is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

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