Suddenly Black: White people discover their African ancestry

(Source: WGCL)

We’re eight days away from Thanksgiving, the celebration of family.

But how much do you really know about your roots, your ancestors; the people responsible for what you look like, your DNA?

The testing data from DNA ethnicity companies shows white people who live in the South are more likely to have African DNA than any other region in the country. Some people are finding out they’re suddenly black.

A Metro Atlanta woman found out family tales of ethnic identity are not always what they seem, and there’s also an interesting twist you might find surprising.

“I had always been told we had Native American heritage, and that’s honestly what I was looking for, so we ordered the kit, took the test and sent it off,” Carmen Rexford said. “And it was a wait. “

In the weeks waiting for her Ancestry DNA test results to come back to the house, the Henry County mom and wife was spending quiet moments on the couch doing research on that “Native American Notion” she’d heard and believed looking at old family photos.

That was until she received a pie chart ancestry breakdown: 99 percent European.

“I have one percent Ivory Coast,” said Rexford.

Ivory Coast, as in the nation in West African, where plenty of enslaved Africans were forced to emigrate and work for free in America.

We asked Rexford what people would see when she walked out in public.

She replied,” They’re going to see mas white. I’ll never know what it’s like to be black.

The DNA pie chart for Rexford’s mom reads like this: Africa South Central = one percent; Nigeria = one percent. It shows even more African DNA than Rexford’s at four percent.

She and her relatives aren’t the first white people to uncover African ancestry.

Singer Carly Simon discovered she has 10 percent African ancestry, and actor Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” fame found he had 1.4 percent African ancestry.

Then there are these people from YouTube:

A white supremacist made a DNA discovery on television:

And this from a former college president:

A recent study

found more than six million Americans who self-identify as European might carry African ancestry. Rexford’s mom welcomed the news.

“She was pretty excited, she accepted it with open arms,” Rexford said. “She was disappointed there was no Native American, and she wanted questions answered and I started looking.”

Rexford’s looking turned up another revelation: it looks like she and I are cousins.

“It says predicted relationship: fourth cousins, possible relationship fourth to sixth cousins, and it says confidence: high,” she said. “Then I went to the shared matches, you can see that you’re related to all these other people through the same line, and then I found you, and then I’m looking and I said that makes sense, and I contacted you saying hey.”

I asked Rexford, based on her research, how we are probably related.

“I believe it’s through Thomas Craig,” she said. “He emigrated from Scotland, and he came to Aiken, South Carolina. He moved next door to a William Bradley, and it appears Bradley sired three daughters with a slave.”

And it makes sense. Relatives on my mom’s side are from the Aiken, South Carolina, Augusta area.

“This is Sara Salley Craig, and she’s the one that was born into slavery,” Rexford said.

For her, knowledge is power; power she believes could change attitudes and behavior.

“I think it could really help race relations, if you find out it affects you, like me, like ‘Hey, it matters to me and now it affects me, even that one percent,’” she said. “I really think it would help them look at things a lot differently.”

Rexford and her mother were thrilled to find African ancestry in the DNA test, but other relatives were not as enthusiastic. That will be explored in part two of this story, airing on Sunday night.

Also on Sunday night, an expert on racial identity has some interesting things to say about the value we place on race in this country. He also has possible solutions. All of that will be explored on Sunday, Nov. 19.

Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



Recommended for you