Spike Lee

By mattelton, 16 October 2009 - 5:34pm
Surprises await the film director as he embarks on a quest to learn more about his mother's side of the family.
Spike Lee

Surprises await the film director as he embarks on a quest to learn more about his mother's side of the family.

Film director Shelton Jackson 'Spike' Lee was born into a changing American society in March 1957. Although he is now commonly known simply as Spike, he takes his real first name from the maiden name of his mother, Jacqueline.

It's not difficult to see where Spike inherited his creative talents from: Jacqueline was a teacher of arts and black literature and his father, William James Edward III, was a jazz musician and composer. But the Civil Rights Act, enforced the same year Spike was born, would also play a huge part in shaping the director's future, as much as the lack of it had played a part in the lives of his ancestors.

Spike’s films often depict the African-American’s plight in a turbulent society, most famously in his biopic of Malcolm X, but also in When the Levees Broke, a documentary showing the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He also wrote, produced and directed the film Do the Right Thing in 1989, depicting racial conflicts in his hometown of Brooklyn, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Jacqueline Lee died in 1977 when Spike was 20 years old, and he sets out on a quest to track down her side of the family’s history. Surprises lie in wait, though as Spike investigates the complex history of slavery...

Take it Further

 

Spike's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? will be broadcast in the US on 19 March, and later in the year in the UK.

Find out more about the celebrities in the new series by clicking here, and don't forget to have your say on our forums.

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