Spike Lee is one of the most progressive, talented and controversial directors of our time. His family history will be spotlighted on the new NBC show “Who Do You Think You Are”, which debuts March 5, 2010. NBC has chosen some interesting celebrities to do research on with Spike Lee being one of seven.
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Spike Lee's Early Years
1957 | Brooklyn, NY
Shelton Jackson Lee was born in Atlanta Georgia on March 20th, 1957. He was born into an area in the middle of racial tension that would only grow stronger into the 60s. The family moved to Brooklyn, NY and that is where Spike grew up. From the beginning of his life his mother Jacquelyn, an educator, encouraged her children to study, understand and be proud of their African American heritage. She also nicknamed him "Spike" at an early age because of the toughness that he showed.
Spike Lee’s father Bill Lee is an accomplished jazz bass player. He has composed music and during Spike’s early years there was always music in the home. Spike and his siblings were challenged in their early years to be creative and critical thinkers by both their mother and father. In later years Bill Lee said about his children, “I wanted them to do what they wanted with their lives. It didn’t have to be music.” Life was not always pleasant in the Lee household. At one time Spike almost died from injuries he received from a beating that his father gave him. In later years Bill wrote the soundtracks for some of Spikes movies.
At an early age Spike was given the choice to attend a chiefly white private school where his mother taught. Instead Spike chose to attend a public school where the majority of his friends were black. He attended and graduated from John Dewey High School. For college Spike chose to go to the same college that his father and grandfather attended, Morehouse. He majored in Mass Communication.
Spike Lee Finds His Calling in Life
1977 | New York
When Spike Lee's mother passed away in 1977 it was not an easy time. He became an avid movie goer to take his mind off of things. He discovered that making movies was his passion and so Spike Lee, actor, writer, producer, and director was born.
He went to New York University and enrolled the Tisch School of Arts and Sciences. There he produced the forty-five minute film, "Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We cut Heads". In 1983 the short film won the Student Academy Award but didn't provide him with any money. It did however provide him with a reputation as a director.
The following year Spike directed and acted in the film "She's Gotta Have It". Island Pictures picked it up and it opened in 1986. It was widely viewed by African American audiences and then crossed over racial barriers to those interested in the Arts.
Spike Lee Then and Now
1993 | New York
After Malcolm X Spike Lee continues to make films, act in them, and direct them. Lee began shooting the film Crooklyn in mid-1993. He took a break during the film to get married. Lee married attorney Tonya Linette Lewis, in October of 1993. They met in September of 1992 during the Congressional Black Caucus weekend in Washington D.C. Their daughter, Satchel Lewis Lee, was born in December of 1994. She was named after legendary black baseball star Satchel Paige. In May of 1997 their son, Jackson Lee, was born.
After Crooklyn Lee's films went from "Clockers" to "Get on the Bus". The he did a documentary called "4 Little Girls" about a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Controversy has surrounded Spike Lee and the films he has produced. He has brought the African American struggle to the forefront through film.
He will be spotlighted on the upcoming genealogy show "Who Do You Think You Are"? The following are some of quotes attributed to Spike Lee.
"The images of Africa that we receive are often limited and negative. So it is not surprising that African Americans don't have a positive connection to the continent. Now thanks to DNA, African Americans can finally find out what region of Africa their ancestors were from. It was a revelation for me and my family to finally discover part of our ancestry."
"I think it is very important that films make people look at what they've forgotten."
"I think people who have faults are a lot more interesting than people who are perfect."
The last film that was released by Spike Lee was "Miracle at St Anns". This is a story which takes place during WWII in 1944. Although fictional it is as powerful a movie as one expects from Spike Lee!