Edward Norton discovers he is the descendant of Pocahontas… and a slave owner



Delighted to see a family legend confirmed, the American actor was also horrified to learn that one of his ancestors had profited from human trafficking.

There are Hollywood stars whose ancestors made their fortunes on colonial plantations, and then there’s Edward Norton. The American actor recently discovered that he descended from Pocahontas, on the occasion of his participation in a program on the search for ancestors, broadcast Tuesday evening in the United States. “It makes you realize how small a fragment of human history we are”reacted Edward Norton when he learned of his direct lineal connection with the Powhatan native of the early 17th century.e century that inspired Disney to create an animated film released in 1995.

Edward Norton had appeared in the last episode of the show Finding Your Roots (“Finding your roots”), broadcast by the public channel PBS. If a tenacious family legend indeed associated the ancestry of Edward Norton with Pocahontas, the actor had until then paid little attention to it – the connection to the illustrious Native American being a fairly widespread claim in North America, and especially in Virginia. During the show, historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. – who has hosted the program since 2012 – was nevertheless able to uncover documents that confirm the link between the comedian and Pocahontas.

“No doubt is possible”, ruled Henry Louis Gates Jr., who indicated that the American actor was the twelfth great-great grandson of Pocahontas. The Powhatan had married British settler John Rolfe in 1614. The couple’s only granddaughter, Jane Rolfe, had married a wealthy landowner from the colony of Virginia, whose descendants spread to that colony and then state on the East Coast of America.

The Red and the Black

The genealogical revelations about Edward Norton’s family haven’t been all enchanting, however. The actor thus discovered that one of his ancestors, named John Winstead, owned slaves. A census lists at least seven: a 55-year-old man, a 37-year-old woman and five girls, aged 4 to 10. The news disturbed the spotlight. “These things are uncomfortable. Everyone should be uncomfortable with this, was he sorry, facing the camera When you read “Slave, age: 8”, you just want to die”.

More anecdotally, the show also shed light on a distant cousinship between Edward Norton and actress Julia Roberts. “You and Ed share a long stretch of identical DNAsaid Henry Louis Gates Jr. to the actress, who also lent herself to the historical treasure hunt. It means that you both inherited this piece of DNA from a distant ancestor, somewhere in the canopy of this family tree.»

According to the Pocahontas Descendants Initiative research project, supported by the state of Virginia and the British county of Gloucester, there could be more than 100,000 descendants of Pocahontas today, either through the colonial line of John Rolfe or that of Kocoum, who would have been the first husband of the Native American. The existence of this autochthonous line remains however hypothetical.


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