Uncovering Chris Rock's Roots
In the groundbreaking PBS series African American Lives 2, Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. helps prominent African-Americans discover their roots.
"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 jokes. "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.'"
Chris says the experience made him feel a range of emotion. "It made me proud that this stuff exists and I can pass it down to my children," he says. "And it made me a little sad because I always considered myself so lucky. Yes, there's a lot of luck with the success … but when you see that people before you managed to make it, you feel like maybe it's your birthright or destiny. We as black people don't feel that we're destined to do anything but bad, and when we do good, we're like, 'Ooh, I'm so lucky.' So it made me happy and sad."
Chris says if he had known about his ancestors' successes earlier, it might have changed his own aspirations. "If I'd have known I'd come from politicians and people of intellect, I would have probably tried to get into the intellect business," Chris jokes.
After learning about his family history, Chris says he can make sense of certain things. "The things I'm doing with my life, they make sense," he says. "Let's just hope that everybody learns where they come from so their lives can make more sense."