Ty Burrell Just Learned the Shocking Story of His Black Slave Ancestors
Talk about a "Modern Family"! "Finding Your Roots" host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. dropped that quip on Ty Burrell during last night's Season 3 premiere, "The Stories We Tell." Actor Ty Burrell, political organizer Donna Brazile, and artist Kara Walker all discovered details from their pasts, with the tie of slavery binding their surprising stories.
Kara Walker, whose artwork depicts the horrific legacy of slavery, discovered one of her great-great grandparents was a white man, and Ty Burrell learned that he has black ancestors.
Ty's great-great grandmother, Susannah Weeks (that's her in the pic above), was "a free person of color" who applied, on her own, for The Homestead Act. She traveled from Tennessee to Oregon to start a new life, and pulled it off. Ty was suitably impressed with this "badass" woman who brought his family to Oregon, where the actor was later born.
Through Census records and other documents, Ty also learned the name of Susannah's mother -- Ty's great-great-great grandmother -- Nellie Mask. Ty further learned that Nellie's mother was a slave named Jane who was impregnated at age 13 by her white 33-year-old slave "master," Dudley Mask.
Ugh. Ty was disgusted to learn his fourth great-grandmother was raped by his fourth great-grandfather. "I want to just be with the heroines of the story," Ty said, but he knows he can't erase his rapist slave-owning ancestor from the family history.
Watch the full "Finding Your Roots" episode below. It's very enlightening and makes you think about your own history:
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