Speed Reads

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Edward Norton's 12th great-grandmother was Pocahontas

It turns out a family legend in the Edward Norton household was more fact than fiction. 

On the latest episode of PBS' Finding Your Roots, host Henry Louis Gates takes the Oscar-nominated actor through his family lineage and informs him that "Pocahontas is, indeed, your 12th great-grandma."

Norton came into the episode knowing a bit about his family history, and he heard growing up that he is a direct descendant of Pocahontas. But the Glass Onion star believed this to be a family legend until it was confirmed by Finding Your Roots' researchers. As Gates explained, there is a "direct paper trail" connecting the actor to John Rolfe and Pocahontas. 

"This makes you realize what a small piece of the whole human story you are," Norton noted.

Norton also learns in the episode that his great-great-grandfather was apparently murdered over a political argument and that his third great-grandfather was opposed to slavery during the Civil War, even writing to President Lincoln personally and urging him to let Black men fight in the Union Army. The actor takes pride in his ancestor did the right thing, but he later faces the uncomfortable revelation that his great-grandfather owned seven slaves, as confirmed by census documents. 

"These things are uncomfortable, and you should be uncomfortable with them," Norton says after learning he had slave owners in his family. "Everybody should be uncomfortable with it. … When you read 'slave, age eight,' you just want to die."