Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finding Your Roots: John Legend and Wanda Sykes

This past Sunday there was another great episode on Finding Your Roots featuring John Legend and Wanda Sykes! (All of the episodes have been awesome though!)

This episode was particularly interesting because it was able to trace their family back to free people of color that were able to break their families from slavery before the civil war and the emancipation of slaves. There were two very interesting stories featured in both families. In John Legend's family there was the story of his ancestor Peyton Polly (This link leads to a book with more details about what happened). Peyton Polly's seven children after having moved to Ohio to escape the slavery they were freed from were stolen in the dead of night by a group of white men who then sold them back into slavery in the states of Virginia and Kentucky. After a series of court battles and testimonies the four children sold back into slavery in Kentucky were released but those in Virginia had to wait until emancipation to be released.

The other story was the story of one of Wanda Sykes' ancestors who was able to gain one branch's family's independence seeing as how she was a white indentured servant. She had an illegitimate child by an African slave and that child was born free. Elizabeth Banks (Wanda's ninth great grandmother), was the woman who "fornicated with a negro slave"giving birth to her eighth great grandmother Mary Banks. Seeing as how her mother was a white indentured servant and not a slave, the status from the mother was passed down to the child granting her freedom.

Towards the end they used DNA analysis again to find the African tribes the guests' mtDNA belongs to, also they were able to find John Legend's y-DNA connection.

John Legend's mtDNA connection to the Mende tribe in Sierra Leone
John Legend's y-DNA connection to the Fula tribe in Guinea-Bissau 
Wanda Sykes' mtDNA connection to the Tikar/Fulani tribe in Cameroon
Margarett Cooper's mtDNA connection to the Temne tribe in Sierra Leone
It was really cool again to see this analysis and maybe hopefully one day I'll be able to get it done for the father's mtDNA line which is part of the Haplogroup L from Africa found mainly in Bantu speakers. 

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