lost roots of Black Britons revealed by groundbreaking BBC TWO documentary
genetic study, undertaken for the BBC documentary Motherland:
A Genetic Journey (BBC TWO, 14 February at 9.00pm), has
finally provided the evidence to answer questions that historians
and genealogists have been wrestling with for centuries.
the first time since the enslavement of their African ancestors
and the eradication of their ethnic identities, advances in DNA
analysis have now made it possible for individuals to discover from
which African region or population group their families originated.
an historic first, a Bristol woman who took part in the study was
even able to track down African relatives living on a tiny island
off the coast of Cameroon.
vast majority of the UK's African-Caribbean community are descended
from the millions of Africans taken from their families and homes
to work as slaves on the Caribbean sugar plantations.
study, the most comprehensive attempt so far to investigate the
specific roots of the descendants of slaves, took anonymous DNA
samples via a buccal swab from 229 volunteers (109 men and 120 women).
The only criterion for all volunteers was that they had four African-Caribbean
well as individual ancestral profiles, the Motherland study also
quantifies, for the first time, one of the most sensitive genetic
legacies of the transatlantic slave trade: the extent to which African
slaves were made pregnant by European slave-owners.
the study reveals more than one in four British African-Caribbeans
have white male ancestry on their direct fatherline.
showed that 27% of British African-Caribbean men have a Y chromosome
(passed directly from father to son) that traces back to Europe
not Africa. In sharp contrast only around 2% of British African-Caribbeans
have mitochrondrial DNA that traces to Europe, rather than Africa,
on their motherline (passed from mother to child).
Mark Jobling, from the University of Leicester, who analysed the
Y chromosome, said of his findings: "[Slavery] was a power
relationship between two populations and in that power relationship
it was European men who where having sex with African women."
Mark Jobling, (Department of Genetics, The University of Leicester);
Dr Peter Forster (The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research,
Cambridge University); and Dr Mark Shriver (Department of Anthropological
Genomics, Penn State University) respectively analysed the Y chromosome,
mitochondrial DNA and autosomal DNA.
autosomal study, investigating DNA inherited from all an individual's
ancestors, demonstrated that on average more than one in seven (13%)
ancestors of today's Black Britons of Caribbean descent would be
of European origin.
part of his analysis Dr Mark Shriver, of Penn State University,
also examined the link between ancestry and pigmentation. He concludes
that although African ancestry can be a rough guide to how light
or dark a person is, appearances can be deceptive.
in-depth research into his own origins, he discovered that although
he looks like a white North American, he is, in fact, 25% African.
feature-length documentary, Motherland: A Genetic Journey, is directed
by award-winning film maker Archie Baron.
follows the emotional journeys of three members of the group of
genetic volunteers as they investigate their ancestry.
a music industry PR from South London travels to Niger, the second
poorest country in the world, to meet the Kanuri people and reclaim
a Kanuri name.
a youth worker from Bristol, discovers that her ancestry lies in
the tiny island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea. Here she experiences
an historic meeting with her blood relatives.
contrast, Jacqueline, a Peterborough schoolteacher, explores her
roots in Jamaica and discovers that a significant proportion of
her ancestry is European.
Motherland project had two ambitious objectives", comments
Baron, "firstly and monumentally, to see what genetics could
finally reveal about the ancestry of British African Caribbeans.
Secondly, to see whether genetics could reconnect individuals to
contemporary population groups.
results of the three year project were more than we could have hoped
for. Armed by science, people have for the first time reconnected
themselves to their lost ancestry in ways that, 25 years ago, Alex
Haley, author of Roots, could scarcely have imagined would ever
A Genetic Journey is a Takeaway Media Production for BBC TWO, directed
by Archie Baron and produced by Tabitha Jackson.
Producer for Takeaway Media is Neil Cameron. The BBC TWO Executive
Producer is Krishan Arora.
the BBC Gene Stories website.
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THREE will become available when it goes on air on 9 February 2003.