History Faculty Member Serves as Consultant on Who Do You Think You Are?

Associate Professor of History Dan Fountain provided background research for the Who Do You Think You Are? episode featuring Alfre Woodard. The episode aired on August 9 on TLC. Fountain spent much of the spring 2015 semester researching the personal and community backgrounds for one of Woodard's great grandfathers, who spent parts of his life as a slave and freeman in Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Fountain's name appeared in the credits for the episode.

Fountain had previously appeared in an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? that focused on actor Blair Underwood. Fountain was contacted by researcher for the show who had read his book, Slavery, Civil War & Salvation: African American Slaves and Christianity, 1830-1870.

“They wanted experts writing in the field of African-American religion,” Fountain said. “It was a thoughtful, scholarship-driven production looking to fully understand the subject, not just get the best sound bites.”

The researcher shared stories from the family tree of an unnamed celebrity and was asked to provide context to the public documents the research team had found. Later, Fountain had conversations on the phone and over Skype with the show’s production team before he was asked to travel to Lynchburg, Virginia, to shoot segments for the show. He spent two and a half days in Lynchburg, including full day of shooting. 

Producers asked Fountain to keep his theories about Underwood's ancestor from the actor. As the camera rolled, Underwood was hearing what the research showed and Fountain’s ideas for the first time. “They asked me to go through the sourcing in chronological order, with the bigger moments at the end. I was to lead him but to let him wade through it so his understanding could be captured on film.”

Melyssa Allen

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