Season 5 of the fascinating PBS series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” which arguably is largely responsible for the current boom in individuals exploring their own ancestry, continues with another engaging episode airing Tuesday at 8 p.m. on WHYY.
In an episode titled “Freedom Tales,” Gates delves deep into the roots of two African-American guests, actor S. Epatha Merkerson as well as athlete and television personality Michael Strahan. Both discover unexpected stories that “challenge assumptions about Black history.”
“I’ve always wanted to know where we came from,” Merkerson reveals in the program.
Best known for her 17-year stint as Lt. Anita Van Buren in the long-running crime drama “Law & Order,” Merkerson, an accomplished stage and screen actress, is the recipient of Emmy, Golden Globe and NAACP Image awards for her portrayal of Rachel Nanny Crosby in “Lackawanna Blues,” as well as two Image awards for her portrayal of Anita Van Buren.
After a stellar career with the New York Giants and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014, Strahan turned his attention to broadcasting, joining “Fox NFL Sunday” as an analyst in 2008 alongside Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson. He also enjoyed a four-year stint with Kelly Ripa on “Live with Kelly & Michael” and is now co-anchor of the Emmy Award-winning “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos.
On Sept. 10, 2018, Strahan and Sara Haines became co-hosts of the third hour of “Good Morning America” originally called “GMA Day,” but now known as “Strahan and Sara.”
Then there’s Strahan’s summer gig as host and executive producer of “The $100,000 Pyramid,” as well as his revealing role in the 2015 feature film “Magic Mike XXL.”
Gates, who is Harvard University’s Alphonse Fletcher Professor and the director of the university’s Hutchins Center for African and American Research, helps people discover relatives hidden for generations within the branches of their family trees.
“There is something essential in human nature that drives us to wonder where we came from,” Gates says on the program’s website. “We can’t truly know ourselves until we know something about our origins. With new DNA technology we can learn more about this past and go further back than ever before, and we hope that the new season will inspire people to find out more about their own personal family stories, and spark an interest among young people in genetics, anthropology, history and the pursuit of science.”