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The African Diaspora Symposium

The African Diaspora: Integrating Culture, Genomics and History

This symposium brought together scholars, scientists, and practitioners from various disciplines who explore the African Diaspora through historical, cultural, and genomic lenses with the purpose of understanding a person’s ancestry and how that impacts individual health and collective identity. 

This event was a partnership between the National Human Genome Reserach Institute, the National Museum of Africian American History and Culture, and the National Museum of Natural History.

A feature story on the African Diaspora offering additional insights is also available here on the Unlocking Life's Code website.

The Symposium’s objectives were:

  • To foster interdisciplinary dialogue on what we can learn about ancestral history from genomic information and historical records
  • To foster interdisciplinary dialogue on what we can learn about ethnic identity and cultural identity from historical and genomic information
  • To foster interdisciplinary dialogue on what we can learn about the arts and culture from ancestral information

This program was videotaped and presentations can be viewed below.


Welcome presentation

Welcome and Introductions
Kirk Johnson, PhD
 National Museum of Natural History
Eric Green, MD, PhD National Human Genome Research Institute
Lonnie G. Bunch National Museum of African American History and Culture
Vence Bonham, JD | National Human Genome Research Institute

Setting the Stage for Understanding Ancestry of African Americans
Moderator: Corey Dade | The Root
Sarah Tishkoff, PhD | University of Pennsylvania
Linda Heywood, PhD | Boston University
Michael Blakey, PhD | College of William and Mary
Panel of presenters

Genealogical Methods: Using Historical Records
Moderator: William Pretzer, PhD | National Museum of African American History and Culture
Ahmed Johnson | Library of Congress
Damani Davis | National Archives
Steven Fullwood | Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Genomic Methods: Using DNA to Explore Ancestry
Moderator: Mark Shriver, PhD | Penn State University
Jake Byrnes, PhD |
Joanna Mountain,  PhD | 23andMe
Rick Kittles, PhD | University of Illinois, Chicago and African
Speaking Presenter

Identity and Genetics
Moderator: Yolanda Moses, PhD | University of California, Riverside
Alondra Nelson, PhD | Columbia University
Sandra Soo-Jin Lee, PhD | Stanford University

Ancestry and Health
Moderator: Charles Rotimi, PhD | National Human Genome Research Institute
Esteban Gonzalez Burchard, MD, MPH | University of California, San Francisco
Aravinda Chakravarti, PhD | Johns Hopkins University
Carlos Bustamante, PhD | Stanford University

Speaker at a PodiumArts, Ancestry, and Culture
Moderator: Johnnetta Cole, PhD | National Museum of African Art
Cheryl Finley, PhD | Cornell University
Carla Williams, MFA | Rochester Institute  of Technology
Mendi Obadike, PhD | Pratt Institute
Keith Obadike, MFA | William  Paterson College

Report of the American Society of Human Genetics Ancestry - Inference Roundtable
Moderator: Malia Fullerton,  PhD | University of Washington
Charmaine Royal, PhD | Duke University
Michael Bamshad, MD | University of Washington



Missed the sold-out event on the evening of September 12th?

Watch the webcast of the event featuring Henry Louis Gates Jr. of the PBS series Finding Your Roots revealing the ancestral backgrounds to Lonnie Bunch of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Gwen Ifill of Washington Week.  After the ancestral reveal, Kojo Nnamdi, host of The Kojo Nnamdi Show and The Politics Hour on WAMU 88.5 explores with Bunch and Ifill what they have learned.  A scientific panel follows to discuss the promise and limitations of ancestral genetic inference testing - featuring Aravinda Chakravarti (Johns Hopkins University), Charmaine Royal (Duke University), Joanna Mountain (23andMe), and moderated by Vence Bonham (NHGRI).



Feature Story: The African Diaspora - Integrating Culture, Genomics, and History



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Photo Credits

All images courtesy of Maggie Bartlett, NHGRI