Valerie Jarrett (pictured left), one of President Barack Obama‘s longest-serving advisers and confidantes, will be delving in to her ancestral DNA on tonight’s “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by literary scholar, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (pictured) on PBS.
Jarrett, whose father was a pathologist and geneticist and whose mother was one of four child advocates who created Chicago’s famed graduate school in child development the Erikson Institute, welcomed the opportunity to trace her background with Gates’ help.
In the episode, Jarrett is transported back more than 200 years to acquaint herself with a few formidable forces in her lineage. Jarrett’s great-grandfather, Robert Robinson Taylor, who by some accounts was the first African-American architect, was the very first Black student to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1888. Taylor went on to help in the design of the prestigious Tuskegee Institute.
Taylor’s father, Henry, who was born in to slavery on June 8, 1868, and freed thanks to President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 is introduced to Jarrett for the first time on the series.. Henry went on to work as a carpenter, businessman, and Jarrett learns how he was able to put his son through such an illustrious university.
“From the Roots” also features actress Angela Bassett’s ancestral journey from slavery through emancipation. In addition, rapper Nas gets an awakening about his family tree that will forever ground him when he encounters a Bill of Sale for his great-grandfather who was sold in to slavery.
Watch the riveting and groundbreaking PBS series, “Finding the Roots,” premiering October 28th at 8 p.m. EST (check local listings).