Note: I already did a post on DNA ancestry tests. This one looks at them as applied to Blacks in the US.
Unlike other Americans, Blacks had their ethnic identity and history taken from them. Even Native Americans know which tribes they come from. DNA tests can help to recover some of that missing information.
There are two kinds of tests: admixture tests and lineage tests.
Admixture tests tell you how much of your DNA comes from different parts of the world. For Black Americans it generally comes out something like this:
- 77% Black Africa
- 21% White Eurasia
- 2% Native America
That is the average according to National Geographic.
Don Cheadle: 81% Black, 19% White, 0% Native
Tina Turner: 66% Black, 33% White, 1% Native
Condoleezza Rice: 51% Black, 40% White, 0% Native, 9% Asian
- Asian: Sometimes you will see Asian thrown in, like with Condoleezza Rice. At least some of that comes from the late 1800s when the law made it hard for Asian men to marry Asian or White.
- Native: This number is the least trustworthy since there are few “pure” Native Americans left against which to compare DNA. On the other hand, most of the straighter black hair that Blacks think comes from Native Americans, in fact comes from Whites!
- White: Mostly comes from White men during slave times, which mostly means rape.
- Black: This can be further broken down by country. For example, for Vanessa Williams:
- 23% Ghana
- 15% Cameroon/Congo
- 7% Togo
- 6% Benin
- 5% Senegal
In most cases “Black” breaks down just like that, into a mishmash of countries along the Atlantic coast of Africa, from Senegal to Angola. Black Americans are way more of a melting pot than Whites.
% Black African DNA according to tests:
0% Jessica Alba
4% George Lopez
11% Mark Shriver, geneticist
14% Craig Cobb, white supremacist
16% James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA
17% Bliss Broyard, daughter of Anatole Broyard (see below)
19% Ildi Silva, Brazilian actress
31% Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones (see below)
34% Anatole Broyard, New York Times writer who passed for White
50% Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
51% Condoleezza Rice
56% Vanessa Williams
61% Quincy Jones
62% Tom Joyner
66% Tina Turner
71% Snoop Dogg
75% Charles Barkley
77% Maya Angelou
80% Chris Rock
81% Don Cheadle
83% Chris Tucker
83% Morgan Freeman
83% Jackie Joyner-Kersee
84% Mae Jemison
89% Oprah Winfrey
92% Whoopi Goldberg
In addition to admixture tests there are lineage tests. They can pinpoint which country and ethnic group (“tribe”) that your maternal or paternal ancestor came from:
- Mandinka: Jackie Joyner-Kersee
- Pepel and Bayote: Whoopi Goldberg
- Jola: Q-Tip
- Balanta: Tom Joyner
- Sierra Leone:
- Mende: Questlove, John Lewis, Cory Booker, Maya Angelou
- Kpelle: Oprah Winfrey
- Songhai or Tuareg: Morgan Freeman
- Hausa: T.D. Jakes, Anatole Broyard
- Yoruba: Wyatt Cenac
- Tikar: Quincy Jones, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Condoleezza Rice
- Bamileke: Jessica Williams
- Uldeme: Chris Rock
- Kota and Shake: Branford Marsalis
- Benga: Samuel L. Jackson
So, for example, in the case of Oprah, her maternal ancestor, or mother’s mother’s mother’s etc mother, came from the Kpelle people of Liberia.
Some of the above are paternal ancestors. About 30% of the time the paternal line goes to Europe, but sometimes it gives a better match than the maternal line.
Thanks to commenter Peanut for suggesting this post.
– Abagond, 2014.
Source: Mainly Henry Louis Gates, Jr., especially “In Search of Our Roots” (2009).
- DNA ancestry test
- mitochondrial DNA
- Some numbers on Black Americans
- Is race biologically real?
- The Transatlantic slave trade
- Chinese Americans in Mississippi under Jim Crow
- passing for white