White actor Edward Norton recently discovered that his ancestors owned slaves, and he said he’s “uncomfortable” about it.
Newsweek was shown a preview of the new season of PBS’ “Finding Your Roots,” and on it, Norton’s slave-owning ancestry was revealed.
Norton, who currently stars in the popular Netflix series .“Glass Onion,” appeared on the long-running television show PBS’ “Finding Your Roots.”
”Finding Your Roots,” hosted by historian Henry Louis Gates, is in its ninth season, which premieres on Jan. 3. It is a documentary television series that debuted on March 25, 2012, on PBS. In each episode, celebrities are presented with a “book of life” that contains information researched by professional genealogists. The show uses traditional genealogical research (written records) and genetics (DNA testing).
Norton received his own “book of life,” which contained data that his family once owned slaves. The 53-year-old actor is presented with a photo of an enslaved family of seven, which included five young girls. The photo shows a 55-year-old man, a 37-year-old woman, and five girls, aged four, six, eight, nine, and 10. It is a family of slaves once owned by the wealthy Rouse family. Norton is a descendant of the Rouse family. There is no indication of when the photo was taken.
Norton’s grandfather, James Rouse, was a businessman and founder of The Rouse Company, a now-defunct shopping mall developer. Norton’s great-grandfather was a Maryland-based attorney and businessman named William Goldsmith Rouse, The Independent reported.
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Gates asked the actor about the photo, “What’s it like to see that?”
“The short answer is, these things are uncomfortable, and you should be uncomfortable with them. Everybody should be uncomfortable with it,” responded the “Fight Club” star. “It’s not a judgment on you and your own life but it’s a judgment on the history of this country. It needs to be acknowledged first and foremost, and then it needs to be contended with.”
He added, “When you go away from census counts and you personalize things, you’re talking about, possibly, a husband and wife with five girls – and these girls are slaves. Born into slavery.”
Gates responded: “Born into slavery and in slavery in perpetuity.”
“Yeah,” Norton said. “Again, when you read ‘slave aged 8,’ you just want to die.”
It is revealed that Norton is distantly related to James Rouse — who founded the Rouse Company, a now-defunct shopping mall developer, The New York Post reported.
Other celebrities due to participate in this season of ”Finding Your Roots” include Claire Danes, Brian Cox, Viola Davis, and Cyndi Lauper.
Not all actors want their slave history to be known. The show’s third season was postponed after it was discovered that actor Ben Affleck had convinced Gates to omit information about his slave-owning ancestors.
”Finding Your Roots” host Henry Louis Gates (L) with actor Edward Norton (R). (Photo: PBS)