January 23, 2008
In one episode of Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s groundbreaking PBS series African American Lives 2, Chris learned about his roots. On the show, Dr. Gates revealed that Chris' great-great-grandfather, Julius Caesar Tinghman, had served as a corporal in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. By the time he died in 1917, Julius had gone from being a slave with no possessions to owning 65.5 acres of land.
Chris told Oprah his experience with Dr. Gates was unbelievable. "Even while it was going on, he was telling me, 'Your great-great-grandfather owned property,' and 'Your great-great-grandfather did all this stuff.' I thought I was being punk'd. I really did," Chris joked. "I thought Ashton Kutcher was going to come from behind something and go, 'You know your grandfather was nothing but a slave. You know he just mopped up for white people. Come on, we got you.'"