Maya Rudolph appeared on this week’s Finding Your Roots, Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s show about celebrities tracing their ancestry. When she learned more about her ancestors, particularly the ones who had been slaves, she breaks down in tears.
In the clip, provided by Jezebel’s Pictorial, Rudolph looks at a record of the 32 slaves owned by John Warren Grigsby. She finds her adult ancestors listed, along with their 5-year-old son. When she finds the 5-year-old’s listing, she starts crying. “I just think of my kids, so that’s really hard to see… 5 years old,” she sobs.
Later, she explains her reaction: “Just when I understood what the numbers were of what I was looking at, that’s what broke my heart. You just don’t think of details because you don’t have them… And then I see 5 and I think of my daughter.”
The clip above focuses on Rudolph’s ancestors who were kept as slaves even after their freedom had been written into their former master’s will. As a result, Rudolph’s third great grandfather sued and won 100 acres of land. “He sued a white man in a slave state of Kentucky and won,” Gates points out.
An astonished Rudolph replies, “How is that even possible?”