Renowned TV host LeVar Burton shocked his ancestry is part white

Stephen Nartey January 17, 2024
LeVar Burton/Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Renowned TV host LeVar Burton, known for his roles in Reading Rainbow and Roots, was surprised by his part-white ancestry on the latest episode of Finding Your Roots.

The PBS genealogy series, hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., explored Burton’s family tree as he sought answers about his background, growing up with his two sisters raised by a single mother in Sacramento, California.

The revelation added a new dimension to Burton’s understanding of his ancestry, according to Rolling Stone. Gates Jr. revealed that Burton’s maternal ancestry includes a great-great-grandfather named James Henry Dixon, who was white. Dixon had an extramarital relationship with a Black woman, a former slave, resulting in the birth of Burton’s great-grandmother, Mary.

“Wow,” replied a stunned Burton upon learning the news, later adding, “I’d have fought you five minutes ago if you had told me that I had a white great-great-grandfather… What?! Kunta got white ancestry. What?! Come on now, Skip!”

When asked if he had ever thought he had a “white direct ancestor,” Burton expressed surprise, laughing and exclaiming, “Noooooooo! No, I had no idea! So, granny was half-white?”

It was revealed that Burton’s great-great-grandfather, Dixon, born in 1847, had served as a teenager in the North Carolina Confederate Junior Reserves, a subset of the Confederate Army that fought to defend slavery.

Burton said the revelation sparked some internal conflict in him …” but… oddly enough, I feel a pathway opening up.”

He explained that there is a need for open dialogue on the issue of one’s identity and heritage, especially in a society marked by political, emotional, and racial polarization.

“We are not talking to each other. So, I’ve been looking for an entry point to talk to white America. Here it is,” he added.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: January 17, 2024

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