Maya Rudolph Breaks Down After Learning About Her Slave Ancestors on ‘Finding Your Roots.’

Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph’s recent appearance on the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” took an emotional turn as the star learned about the details surrounding her African-American ancestors.

Rudolph, who is biracial, is the daughter of late African-American singer Minnie Riperton and producer/composer Richard Rudolph. She admitted to being curious about her family’s history at the start of her segment on the show.

By combing through the 1960 census, the show’s researchers were able to trace her lineage to a white man named John Warren Grigsby. Grisby owned 32 slaves, and Rudolph’s maternal ancestors, including their 5-year-old son, were among them. The documents did not include the boy’s name, only his age and gender. Upon learning this information, Rudolph broke into tears.

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While the revelation of slavery in her ancestry was most likely not a surprise to Rudolph,

“I cannot believe I’m looking at this,” she said. “That breaks my heart. Wow…I just think of my kids, so it’s really hard to see…That poor little boy.”

“Just when I understood what the numbers were that I’m looking at [the ages of the slaves] is 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,” she added.

Rudolph also learned about a freed slave ancestor who went to court to fight for his freedom, which was granted to him in his owner’s will. He ended up winning his case.

“I can’t imagine what the odds could have been, and then they went in his favor. To me, that’s tremendous courage,” Rudolph said.