NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? is back for a second season, and the celebs tracing their family trees are still terrific: Vanessa Williams, Rosie O’Donnell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Cattrall, Ashley Judd, Steve Buscemi, Lionel Richie, and Tim McGraw.
"Never"...Vanessa Williams is reading her Great Great Grandpa David Carll's written response on a pension form to the question "were you ever a slave". Born in 1845, centuries later, that "never" remains emphatic and resoundingly powerful.
Slavery in New York State had been abolished in 1827 which afforded him the status of freedom. In 1864, David Carll enlisted in the Union Army to fight for the freedom for others who were not as fortunate as himself. Wisely, $200.00 of his $300.00 salary or "bounty" as it was then referred, was used to purchase land for his family in Oyster Bay NY, and his descendants would live and thrive there for generations.
i love that Ms Williams' family has a cemetery plot in her hometown that spans several generations. Even though they are deceased that kind of access provides a strong continuity.
Great Great Grandpa Carll was among the 1st to enlist in the Union Army once blacks were permitted to serve. Vanessa Williams, the 1st black Miss America [though she would later be compelled to relinquish her crown] comes by her pioneer spirit honestly. Of course Ms Williams has subsequently made many other great accomplishments: philanthropist, award winning artist, star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, etc. But in a bit of prescient whimsy, on her birth announcement her parents wrote "here she is, Miss America". Something i'm guessing her descendants will find delightful.
NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? begins it's 2nd season Friday February 4th 2011 at 8:00pm. Please check your local listings.