The late James Baldwin was one of the most influential African-American writers to emerge during the civil rights era. During the late 1950s and 1960s, he traveled through the South and addressed racial issues head on. Though Baldwin died in 1987 before that book could be written, the new Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, draws on his notes for the book, as well as from other of Baldwin's writings.
Journalist, novelist and playwright Thulani Davis traces her roots in My Confederate Kinfolk: a Twenty-First Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots. Among the revelations Davis uncovered was that her ancestors include a Scots-Irish clan of cotton planters as well as Africans from Sierra Leone.
Ta-Nehisi Coates grew up in the post-civil rights era, son of a publisher and former Black Panther; he's a contributing editor and blogger for The Atlantic magazine and author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, 2 Sons, and An Unlikely Road to Manhood.
Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) became part of the civil-rights movement while he was a teenager. From 1963 to 1966, he chaired the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. And he became a close associate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Lewis has been a congressman since 1987.
Political scientist and author runs the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics at UCLA; he talks to Terry Gross about how Barack Obama's campaign is addressing issues touching on race and ethnicity.