I was relieved to learn at the very beginning of that Kevin Bacon’s caveman hair is for a movie role. Wondering about it would’ve been distracting.
Both come from distinguished New England families. A few years back I read the book In My Blood: Six Generations of Madness and Desire in an American Family by Sedgwick’s uncle John Sedgwick. I was glad to see him interviewed for this episode, and unsure what work the show’s researchers would have left to do.
But they did discover something new: Family patriarch Theodore Sedgwick, a prominent lawyer in Colonial Massachusetts, owned a slave. This was surprising because he took on the case of a slave named Mumbet who sued for her own freedom, claiming that the new Massachusetts constitution made all men freeand she won.
Kevin Bacon’s Quaker ancestor also owned slaves, though Gates pointed out that at least his will directed they should learn to read and be freed at age 35.
Gates’ visit to a high school classroom demonstrated how little-known it is that slavery was so widespread in the northern colonies. I didn’t realize that Quakers hotly debated the issue of slavery before setting themselves against it.
Sedgwick also took a DNA test revealing that she is half Jewish, and she seemed to express relief. But at the beginning of the show, she was described as half Jewish through her mother, so I didn’t understand that emotionperhaps some explanatory scenes were edited out.
And the big drumroll: Gates revealed to the couple that they’re ninth cousins once removed (which is very, very distant). Even without the news reports coming out before the show, I would’ve seen this one coming a mile away, as soon as Sedgwick said at the start of the episode “My biggest fear is that we’re cousins.”