Courtney Vance Anna Deavere Smith Nas Khandi Alexander Henry Louis Gates Jr.

In this photo released by PBS, from left, actor Courtney B. Vance, actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, recording artist Nas, actor Khandi Alexander and host/executive producer/writer/presenter Henry Louis Gates Jr. discuss uncovering family histories during PBS’ “Finding Your Roots 2” session at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverley Hills, Calif. In its second season, the 10-part series that traces celebrities’ ancestry will focus on, among others, Nas, Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Tina Fey, Sting, Stephen King, Derek Jeter and chef Ming Tsai.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates has put one of Hip Hop’s most exigent voices, rapper Nasir Jones, in touch with a piece of family history the artist had considered lost. According to the New York Daily News, Gates presents “Nas” with an 1859 bill of sale for the rapper’s third great grandmother, whose name was Pocahontas, on an upcoming episode of Gates’s PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” which resumes airing in September.

Nas is quoted in the Daily News article as saying, “I thought I would never know anything about my family past my grandparents, and I was willing to just accept that because I had no way of finding out. So when I saw the bill of sale, I had to stop and deal with that for a moment. This is a sale of a human being. This was business here in this country.”

The bill of sale was issued approximately four years before President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves held in the seceding southern states free and stands as the symbolic end to legal slavery in the United States.

Nas, long considered one of the premier social voices in Hip Hop music, is also reported to have joked that the White relatives of the slaveowner in the bill of sale probably owe him money.

“Finding Your Roots” traces the ancestral history of celebrities, with each episode containing a pair of famous persons bound by “an intimate, sometimes hidden link,” according to the show’s website.

Roberto Alejandro

Special to the AFRO