Maya Rudolph’s Reaction to Slave Ancestry on “Finding Your Roots” Will Move You to Tears

I absolutely love Saturday Night Live alum and mom of four Maya Rudolph, and I also happen to adore the fascinating ancestry detective-to-the-stars PBS show, Finding Your Roots. So when I found out Maya was going to be on the show with host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., I was excited to watch it.


“I have this thing where I just feel I can be anyone,” the comedienne  told Gates . “And I think being mixed, too, I kind of, sort of grew up feeling a little orphaned by the idea of my heritage.”

As Rudolph soon found out, unearthing family history can also unearth some overwhelming emotions. Gates and his team were able to trace Maya’s maternal line (her mother is the late singer Minnie Riperton) nearly 200 years to the 1830s. Some of these ancestors were slaves in Kentucky, including one 5-year-old boy who was identified only by his age.

Because Rudolph has a 5-year-old herself, this revelation hit her hard! “Oh, FIVE!” she gasped, fighting back tears. “I just think of my daughter.”

You can watch the emotional clip below. Though the episode aired last week, I was just able to watch it Monday, and I’m so thankful that the timing coincided with Black History Month. Praise the Lord that African-Americans can no longer be considered property, and that Rudolph’s 5-year-old has a much different life than her 5-year-old ancestor did.

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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.