From Oprah to the Obama’s, we know and love our famous black celebrities. But how about the famous people you didn’t even know where black? You may be truly surprised to see some of the names on this list but research doesn’t lie. From the middle ages to the present day 21st century, here are 8 famous people you didn’t know were black but are.
Famous for his exploits during the French Revolution, Sir Alexandre Dumas was a well-known figure. Although his father was white, he was born in Haiti of a black mother and even kept his mother’s family name. Dumas’ father raised him in France where he schooled and later joined the military.
Whether Napoleon Bonaparte was jealous of Dumas’ exceptional swordsmanship, military leadership, or his height (Bonaparte was only 5feet7″ while Dumas was over 6 feet) isn’t known. What was apparent is that Bonaparte disliked Dumas so much that he captured and detained him in prison where Dumas languished until his release. Although Dumas never went back to military service, his son, Alexandre, wrote the famous ‘The Count Of Monte Cristo’ in honor of Dumas.
Kris is more popularly known as the guy that was married to Kim Kardashian for 72 days. However, he is a well-accomplished basketball player. His mother is white but Kris’ football star father is African-American. Most people don’t notice this because Kris has light-colored eyes and pale skin.
Famous for his role in ‘Rescue Me’ an FX series, sexy actor Daniel Sunjata has been questioned a lot about his ethnicity. The actor says he is German, Irish, and African American. He explained that growing up in a white neighborhood was tough because he lived through an identity crisis. Although he wouldn’t have listed himself as one of the famous black celebrities in the past, Sunjata is now comfortable with his origin and even uses his experience to play well into his mixed TV characters.
Queen Charlotte, the wife of British Monarch, King George III, was a descendant of a royal family from Portugal. Her ancestry reaches far back to 13th-century ruler Alfonso III. The monarch had children with a Moor (an old term used for people of black or Arabic origin) called Madragana. This revelation was uncovered after people began to question her looks in an 18th-century painting. They said she looked to have African facial features in the image.
This story has been heavily debated. However, the royal family published a report in 1953, spelling out their ancestral links to Africa. If this is true, it means Queen Charlotte’s descendants are all of mixed-race. This includes Queen Elizabeth II, her living heirs, and all the heirs to come.
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New Orleans born Broyard had light-skinned black parents. He grew up in black Brooklyn but carefully distanced himself from his heritage as he matured. Because he has very light skin, he joined the military as a white man. Broyard transitioned to bookselling after his discharge and became a copywriter himself. After the career change, he continued to progress with his bookshop. He grew to become one of America’s greatest literary critics of the time.
Broyard wanted to be recognized as a writer, not a black writer. Because of this, he kept his race hidden even when pressed for information by the public. In 2007, 17 years after he passed away, his daughter spoke about his race. She published a book revealing the race secrets in her father’s life. Although Broyard never identified with the black community he is one of the greatest famous black celebrities that ever lived.
As the host of CNN’s documentary series, ‘Black In America’, O’Brien was repeatedly questioned on why she was qualified to handle the position. What many people didn’t know is she is half black. Soledad has a white Australian father and black Latina mother. Her parents encouraged her to identify as black even though she was raised in a white neighborhood.
O’Brien said being mixed was never a problem for her because she never relied on other people’s perception of her. Her parents had taught her to look to herself for value. From childhood, she found the real perception of herself within. This is why she was never phased when people wondered and debated about her race. Apart from ‘Black In America’, Soledad went on to host another documentary for CNN about being Latino in America.
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With his signature straight hair on stage, it was hard to count Pete amongst famous black celebrities back in the day. However, in an interview, Pete Wentz from the band Fall Out Boy admitted to the press that his mother is from Jamaica. The speculations about his race began after the singer abandoned his straight look for a more natural appearance.
When he stopped straightening his hair, his naturally curly hair was revealed and the questions started pouring in automatically. Wentz explained that his stage look was important for his brand but it required too much maintenance. He embraces his Jamaican side with open arms and only regrets that he did not tap from the musical influence of The Wailers of Bob Marley when he was growing up in Jamaica as a kid.
The renowned actress, Carol Channing, was born of a white mother and a light-skinned black father. Carol grew to become a Broadway start famous for performances like ‘Hello Dolly’ and ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. It wasn’t until Channing was at the height of her career that she shockingly discovered her absent father was a black man.
As a little girl, she remembered her father switching his speech pattern form a white to black, always showing his white side when they were out and about in their white neighborhood.
Sometimes you simply can’t tell a person’s race form the color of their skin. These celebrities might never have been on your list of famous black celebrities but now you know they are truly black. Do you know another black celebrity we missed on this list? Share in the comments below so we can learn something from you.