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Person 2 Person: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

(KUTV) Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the host of the PBS show, "Finding Your Roots."

He is also a filmmaker, historian, professor, and author.

He was recently Utah for the RootsTech Conference, and revealed to Shauna Lake how he got the inspiration for "Finding Your Roots."

Gates visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City "by accident" in 1992.

"A woman stands up--just like she got the Holy Ghost in church--says 'I found my grandmother!' and she started crying," recalled Gates. "I thought, 'Wow, look at the power of finding your own ancestry."

That experience stuck with him, and 10 years later he got the idea that became "Finding Your Roots."

Gates has found it means a lot to people to learn about their ancestry, and that it helps people discover different facets of themselves.

"Your ancestors are present, literally, in your DNA, in your genome," he said. "You are the living testament to your ancestors' longevity."

Technology has made finding out about your ancestors even easier.

"The digitization revolution has changed fundamentally the nature of ancestry tracing," said Gates. "It's never been easier. There have never been more records available."

Digitization made it so he could find a record of his great-great grandmother he had been searching 12 years for.

Dr. Gates does much more than meet with celebrities on "Finding Your Roots."

He is also a professor at Harvard, where is in charge of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

"That's my prime identity as a professor," he said.

He also has produced films about the experiences of Africans and African Americans.

He also loves to teach literature.

When it comes to race relations, Gates believes "there's more opportunity for black people today than there's ever been."

But, he also believes there is an atmosphere where people feel comfortable saying racist things.

"I think all of us who love the principles upon which this great republic was founded have to stand up against racism, or sexism, or anti-Semitism, or homophobia, or Islamophobia, wherever they rear their ugly heads," he said.

Gates has learned through his work with genealogy that there is no place for racism or any bigotry.

"We're all immigrants in this country, and we're all mixed. There is no such thing as biological racial purity. And that's why I do 'Finding Your Roots,'" he said. "That's my way of being an activist."

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