Ava DuVernay's dive into her ancestry did not take her where she expected

By Stephanie Petit
October 24, 2017 11:45 AM
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Ava DuVernay‘s dive into her ancestry did not take her where she expected.

In a preview for Finding Your Roots, the producer and director traces her stepfather’s past in Alabama — an inspiration for her breakout film Selma — to his third great-grandfather, a former slave who registered to vote in the same region where the movie took place.

However, her biological roots provide an unexpected twist: Her ancestors were white French slave owners fleeing the revolt in the Haitian Revolution.

When host Henry Louis Gates Jr. asks DuVernay to guess what her ethnicity is, she fears that she’s more than 50 percent European, contrary to what she’s believed her entire life.

She turns to page to reveal a pie chart that confirms she’s 57.3 percent African.

“I’m black!” she exclaims, with her hands raised triumphantly in the air.

“Welcome back,” Gates jokes as she continues to celebrate.

“This makes me so happy,” DuVernay says.

DuVernay’s episode of Finding Your Roots premieres Tuesday night on PBS. Other guests on the show are author Ta-Nehisi Coates and TV host Janet Mock.