A medley of young and veteran political and media folks gathered at the W
Hotel Wednesday night for the D.C. premiere of Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s
latest PBS documentary project, "Faces of America."
Gates was joined at the event by civil rights movement figures, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Calif.) and former Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.).
Gates is best known as the Harvard professor who was arrested last year for attempting to break into his own house in Cambridge, Mass. The incident drew national attention, and resulted in President Barack Obama inviting him and his arresting officer to the White House for "a beer," in what has become known as the beer summit.
Gates's latest project traces the genealogy of a number of well-known Americans, and as he explained to the audience, the results have been surprising. For example, he said, "[Latina actress] Eva Longoria's family arrived [in the United States] in 1603, 17 years before the Mayflower!"
Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" was another surprise. The comedian was convinced that he was entirely Irish Catholic, until Gates told him otherwise. When Colbert learned that he derived partly from a Lutheran family, he jokingly threw his hands up and cried, "I'm descended from a heretic!"
Gates, who is African American, also learned of an unexpected relation of his own: talk show host Regis Philbin. "Regis and I are descend from the same Irish king!" Gates told the audience.
"And there's another Gates I'm
related to, who I haven't found yet, and I'm hoping that Gates is
William Gates," he joked.
Gates's documentary will be shown on public television throughout the coming weeks.Click here to find out when it airs on your station.