Trending Topics

‘The Same Country That Gave Me a Really Good Life… Enslaved My Ancestors’: Viola Davis Learns Family Secrets on ‘Finding Your Roots’

Viola Davis appeared on “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Jan. 31, and the actress learned a secret about her family.

Davis grew up in Rhode Island, but her mother’s family came from South Carolina. She learned on the show that one of her grandfathers might have been a love child. It turns out that the paternity of Davis’ maternal grandfather, Henry Logan, might have been a family secret. A social Social Security application for Logan listed Gable Logan as his father. However, on his obituary, a man named John Young is listed.

According to historical records, Henry Logan was born after his mother, Corine Ravenell Logan, married Gable Logan in 1912. Henry Logan was born in May of 1920. More records from 1919 noted that Gable Logan served during World War I, but after returning from France, there is no record of him returning to South Carolina and his family.

People Just Automatically Assume You Just Clean Yourself': Viola Davis Hygiene and Growing Up Poor with Oprah Winfrey
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 14: Viola Davis attends Showtime’s FYC Event and Premiere for “The First Lady” at DGA Theater Complex on April 14, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

The news led Gates to wonder if Logan never returned to his family, was it possible that John Young was Henry Logan’s father. Davis wondered if her great-grandmother Corine dated Young while Gable Logan was overseas.

“I think Corine, I don’t know, got bored, had a disconnect and went with someone else while (Gable Logan) was away. And I think that that was a very short-lived relationship,” she said.

Records also showed that Young was married and lived down the street from where Corine Logan was living with her parents. “Finding Your Roots” said DNA testing did confirms Henry Logan was fathered by Young.

“It makes me know that I entered this world with a big old load from the moment I came out of my mother’s womb. I’m the amalgamation of a lot of stories and a lot of secrets,” she said.

Gates and Davis also talked about how enslaved people were passed from generation to generation in wills as property. Gates shared a clip on Twitter with a caption noting slavery was meant to rob Black people of their humanity.

“The whole system was designed to demean us… to rob us of our humanity. And it had an effect that we see being played out in our people over and over again.” #FindingYourRoots @ViolaDavis.”

Davis said she was hurt knowing what the country had done to her ancestors, referring to Gates telling her one of her ancestors who’d been born into slavery was forced to fight alongside his owner’s son in a Confederate army.

“The same country, the same place that gave me an Oscar, gave me an Emmy, gave me two Tonys, gave me a really good life is also the same country that enslaved my ancestors and saw them as property,” said Davis. “It hurts my soul. It really does.”

Back to top