This week is the last of a six-episode PBS documentary series called Human Footprint.
Hosted by the biologist and Princeton University professor Shane Campbell-Staton, Ph.D., the series traverses across the globe from high-tech labs to street markets to farms and restaurants to capture the vast footprint of people on this planet.
The episodes include topics like invasive species and urban development, and the last episode looks at the science and history of cotton farming.
For that episode, Shane also visited 23andMe headquarters to interview Steven Micheletti, Ph.D., a 23andMe population geneticist who was the lead author of a 2021 paper on the genetic impact of the transatlantic slave trade.
“The demand for cotton in the US increased the demand for an enslaved workforce. The continued enslavement of people of African descent throughout most of the 19th century is embedded in the genetics of Americans today,” Steven said when discussing the upcoming episode.
Titled “The Ground Beneath” this last episode explores the history of cotton farming, slavery, and its effect on America today. The story of cotton covers how one group of people enslaved another to power an industry, reshape a landscape, a culture and very DNA of the American people, the producers of the series said.
If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, check out the show and past episodes here.