Recovering the Histories of Seven Enslaved Americans


Apr 07, 2021, 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm


Free Online Event via Zoom

Gregg Hecimovich, Professor and Chair, Department of English, Furman University 

Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director, Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, Harvard University 

For seven seasons, award-winning Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. has uncovered the ancestral stories of celebrity guests on his hit-television series, Finding Your Roots. In this program, Gates Jr. is joined by Dr. Gregg Hecimovich to discuss the process of unearthing the histories of formerly enslaved people. The focus is on  Alfred, Delia, Drana, Fassena, Jack, Jim, and Renty, seven Black men and women who were photographed against their will in Columbia, South Carolina in 1850. These controversial photographs are the subject of a new book, To Make Their Own Way in the World  (Peabody Museum Press/Aperture 2020).

Presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology in collaboration with the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research 

About the Speakers

Gregg Hecimovich is the author of four books including the forthcoming Life and Times of Hannah Crafts (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2022). Hecimovich was a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University (2014–15). He also served as the Josephus Daniels Fellow at The National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina (2015–16). Additionally, Hecimovich held a Public Scholar Fellowship appointment from The National Endowment for the Humanities (2015–16).  

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. An Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has also authored or coauthored more than twenty books and created more than twenty documentary films, including The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, Black in Latin America, Black America since MLK: And Still I Rise, Africa’s Great Civilizations, Reconstruction: America after the Civil War, The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, and Finding Your Roots, his groundbreaking genealogy series now in its seventh season on PBS. The recipient of fifty-eight honorary degrees, Gates was a member of the first class awarded “genius grants” by the MacArthur Foundation in 1981, and in 1998, he became the first African American scholar to be awarded the National Humanities Medal. A native of Piedmont, West Virginia, Gates earned his BA in History, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973, and his MA and PhD in English Literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge in 1979. He also is an Honorary Fellow, Clare College, at the University of Cambridge. A former chair of the Pulitzer Prize board, he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and serves on a wide array of boards, including the New York Public Library, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Aspen Institute, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Library of America, and the Brookings Institution. In 2011, his portrait, by Yuqi Wang, was hung in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. 

Related Book

To Make Their Own Way in the World  (Peabody Museum Press/Aperture 2020)