Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Spike Lee Meets The Family Slaveowners

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The heart of Texas. A century after his ancestors were freed from slavery, Spike Lee meets his relatives. And not all of his family were slaves.

We know that our American slave history included the horrendous abuse and rape of slaves; the possibility of white and black Americans being related today is not a surprise. In Lee’s ancestry, we learn that his great-great-great grandmother, Mathilde, was a mulatto in the 1860’s. Mathilde worked in the plantation house of her slaveowners as a cook. As a mulatto, history indicates that Lee’s slave ancestor may have been the daughter of the white slaveowner.

Witnessing Spike Lee’s journey from his New York home to the deep South, I could not help but admire his life work: chronicling the African American experience in film. Do the Right Thing may be one of my favorite movies, and as a teenager growing up in the Midwest with little experience with non-Asian or non-White heritage, Lee’s groundbreaking film opened my eyes to the racism in the rest of America. I’ve always been impressed by Lee’s artistry, integrity, and commitment to fighting racism. His appearance last night on the television show, Who Do You Think You Are?, again shows his thoughtfulness and curiosity.


Filed under: ancestry, entertainment, family, , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. LADY says:

    Spike Lee has a ‘whites are evil’ agenda which is the basis of his career. Surely, no one would tolerate a white director making all of their films demonizing and making fun of blacks.

    Spike continued his agenda in his quest for his ancestors. One example is his declaration that his great great grandmother was raped. She may well have been; but, he doesn’t know that and no evidence of that fact was presented. She may well have been happy in her current circumstance. Keep it in time and place and not considering standards of today. It seems that there is at least some evidence of that since she stayed even after the emancipation of blacks.

    He was neither thoughtful nor open-minded. He showed up with his mind made up and cast about to support it.

  2. Guy says:


    Unsubstantiated claims like your “whites are evil” comment amount to ad hominem attacks which say more about you than about your target. And your caricature of all of Lee’s films as “demonizing and making fun” of whites is so absolute and general (not to mention cartoonish) for such a filmmaker as to be unprovable. You also draw a false equivalence between a purported white vs. black racism which is breath-taking in its obliviousness to history. Do you really believe that in the wake of generations of slavery and its aftermath (see, e.g., Blackmon’s Slavery By Another Name: http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/), that when an African-American focuses both on the massive race-based injustices perpetuated on his or her ancestors and on their lingering effects today, that there is seriously anything at all comparable a white American can point to? Finally, Lee does not “declare” that his ancestor was raped; he notes the “possibility” that she was–which is entirely fair, speaking historically (listen to his comment about 37 mins. into the video). But your misrepresentation of what Lee says in order to prove your charges of his racist “agenda” not only misses its mark, but misses the forest for the trees. The value of this video is clearly not that it demonstrates Lee’s racism–which it emphatically does not–but that it provides a glimpse into America’s slave past, of which too many of us are ignorant today.

    • LADY says:

      Spike Lee said “raped.

      “but that it provides a glimpse into America’s slave past, of which too many of us are ignorant” – speak for yourself.

      As I previously stated, Spike Lee would have no career if his stereotyping of whites were off limits.

  3. jonolan says:

    LADY is essentially correct. Spike Lee makes his money through grievance-mongering, racism, and race-baiting. It’s a wise move on his part since there’s a ready market for such works among both Blacks and the White who are sunk in ethno-guiltism.

    Most of his works are little more than Black-centric versions of Birth Of A Nation and should largely be treated with the same disdain.

  4. Guy says:

    More false equivalences and unsubstantiated claims. It’s remarkable that you guys feel no need to actually prove your case rather than merely state and reiterate your ideology. Show us, for example, how the complex and historically sensitive race relations in Do the Right Thing are really the same as the sweeping, even epic, championing of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation. How the need for recognition of African American achievement on a street corner in Brooklyn is really the equivalent of the promotion of white supremacy throughout American society and the systematic disenfranchisement of a whole race. Until the right-wing in this country has something more substantial than a set of talking points without any proof and cogent analysis to back them up, you’ll have to excuse the rest of us for remaining unconvinced.

  5. LADY says:

    blah blah blah

    Without his attitude of po po blacks, he would have no career. He has done nothing that doesn’t promote, ‘we are entitled’ cause our great great great great granny was upwardly mobile and moved into the big house.

    If Spike Lee cared one wit about blacks, he would address the problems they bring on themselves today, i.e. the high rates of domestic violence and incest in the black community as well as drugs. He’s only fanning the flames of ‘we are victims’ istead of making a differene.

    But, it’s not happening. As, long as there’s good money in his racism and enough idiots that buy into it, Spike Lee will continue to embrace it.

  6. jonolan says:

    Leave of, LADY. Engaging creatures such as Guy is essentially useless. They’re caught up in an alien and antithetical ideologies and incapable at this point of joining American culture.

    Simply tend them as needed and cull them as required.

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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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