"African American Lives 2" is the second edition of the successful PBS series that takes a look not only into the lives of many of the most prominent African-Americans, but into their ancestry. The series is divided into four hour-long episodes: "The Road Home" (stories of the participants' ancestors from the 20th century), "A Way out of No Way" (tracing the guests' lineages back through the late 1900's to the Civil War), "We Come From People" (stories of the participants' ancestors during the early years of the US) and "The Past is Another Country" (discoveries about participants' lineages thanks to DNA analysis.)
Some of the guests include: Chris Rock, Maya Angelou, Morgan Freeman, Tina Turner, Don Cheadle, Tom Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. The series is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, who also provides some narration. The episodes are presented in very interesting fashion, not only providing a good deal of background and insight into the history of the African-American culture, but taking the viewer from present day backwards instead of the opposite.
The different stories presented are often quite moving, such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee's memories of how her East St. Louis neighborhood encouraged her to keep running. Tom Joyner finds out that his great grandfather sold land for a dollar to create a school for the children of slaves. Chris Rock learns that a great-great grandfather he never knew served in the civil war, as did Don Cheadle. What's amazing about the program is both the research that uncovers the ancestry of the participants, but the ability to watch the reactions - which are often powerful - as the guests learn about their family's past.
"African-American Lives 2" takes a remarkable journey through the past, revealing the past to participants in the present, showing them the people they may not have known that are a part of who they are. The program is a great reminder to everyone how important their past is and how more people in our society should attempt to learn about their ancestry.
VIDEO: "African-American Lives 2" is presented by Paramount in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is excellent, as sharpness and detail remained above-average throughout the program. No edge enhancement was spotted, but there were a few minor traces of pixelation. Colors remained natural and accurate, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: The series is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. However, the show's audio rarely goes much beyond being a dialogue-driven documentary-style sound presentation. The surrounds offer some minor reinforcement of the music, but are otherwise silent. Audio quality is crisp and clear, as dialogue sounded natural and clean.
Final Thoughts:"African-American Lives 2" takes a remarkable journey through the past, revealing the past to participants in the present, showing them the people they may not have known that are a part of who they are. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, but no extras. Still, recommended.