Questlove Becomes Emotional After Learning About Ancestors: ‘I Didn’t Know Who I Was’

“I didn’t know who I was or where I came from”

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On Tuesday night’s episode of the PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” Amir “Questlove” Thompson made a profound discovery. His ancestors are part of one of the last known group enslaved Africans to arrive to the United States. And the lesson bought The Roots musician to tears.

Questlove’s third great-grandparents are listed in an 1860s census as natives from Africa and while the exact country they came from wasn’t discussed on the program, the fact that the musician can identify them by name is major. Charles and Maggie Lewis, along with their son, Joseph, came to Mobile, Ala. on the “Clotilda” slave ship. And, their arrival came more than 50 years after the international slave trade was outlawed.


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When asked how he felt, Questlove admitted he was at a loss for words.

“I’m just so overwhelmed right now because I never … I mean, until an hour ago, I didn’t know who I was,” he says, tearing up and breaking the promise he made to himself not to cry.”I didn’t know who I was or where I came from.”

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