Actor Edward Norton Learns His 12th Great-Grandmother Is Pocahontas On ‘Finding Your Roots’

Over the past three decades, Edward Norton has made a name for himself in Hollywood as a highly respected actor and filmmaker. Following his breakout performance in "Primal Fear" in 1996, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe, he went on to act in two more films that he is still well-known for: "Flight Club" and "American History X."
He has since portrayed "The Incredible Hulk" and made cameos in critically praised ensemble cast movies including "Birdman," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Moonrise Kingdom," and "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery." In addition, he has directed the films "Keeping the Faith" and "Motherless Brooklyn."

While Norton has utilized his stature to promote anti-corruption and environmental causes off-screen, he has portrayed a variety of characters on screen, both good and bad. Norton has stated that he has no intention in becoming a superstar, despite the fact that he is highly recognized for his work in Hollywood. A relatively calm existence has eluded him despite his celebrity, thanks to his past romances with Salma Hayek and Courtney Love, among other well-known artists.

But the actor has made the decision to share a particular side of himself with the world: his family background. When Norton appeared on PBS's "Finding Your Roots" in January 2023, he discovered several significant details about his ancestry, such as the fact that he is connected to Pocahontas, also known as Amonute, a Powhatan lady.

Notable finds in Norton's lineage include a late 19th-century labor leader who supported unionization and a soldier from the Civil War who corresponded with Abraham Lincoln. Discover more about Edward Norton's unexpected ancestry by reading on.

During his appearance on the ninth season premiere of PBS's "Finding Your Roots," Norton discussed his family's history, which stretches back to Virginia in the early American colonial era, with host Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates Jr. verified an amazing revelation that Norton was only dimly aware of due to family lore: Pocahontas, a Native American Powhatan lady who was also known as Amonute or Matoaka, is Norton's 12th great-grandmother.

Her tale is somewhat well-known because she was kidnapped and held captive by English colonists for ransom before getting married to John Rolfe. Her father was the leader of the Powhatan tribe, which occupied the Virginian Tidewater region. Her tale has been romanticized and made into a movie throughout the years, among other literary works.

Regarding Norton's claim to be a Pocahontas ancestor, Gates Jr. informed the taken aback actor:

"That was, I realize, family lore. It is, in fact, entirely true."

The host provided background information on the era in which all of this occurred, saying, "On April 5, 1614, John Rolfe and Pocahontas were married. Shakespeare passes away in 1616, to put everything in context." "John Rolfe died around March 1622, and Pocahontas died sometime in March 1617 in Grave's End, England," he said.

"How could you possibly determine that?" Norton questioned, incredulous that the family legend had come to pass. According to Gates Jr., "through the paper trail," some of which Norton's forebears themselves maintained. Overwhelmed by the attention to detail, Norton declared, "This is about as far back as you can go, unless you're a Viking." Added him:

"Makes you realize how small you are in the grand scheme of things."
Adding to Norton's "uncomfortable" background, the 1850 North Carolina census revealed that his third great-grandfather, John Winstead, was the owner of slaves. A 37-year-old lady, a 55-year-old man, and five little girls—ages 10, 9, 8, 6, and 4—were among them. Norton disclosed the following after discovering that his ancestor had seven slaves:

"The short answer is that these things are uncomfortable, and everyone should feel uncomfortable with them as well."

Added him:

"It's a judgment on this country's history, not on you and your own life. It must be acknowledged first and foremost, and then it must be contested."

Norton struggled with the idea that the young girls were essentially born into slavery as the two talked about it, saying, "When you read slave age 8, you want to die."

In another part of the show, Norton disclosed that his grandparents had written down the diaries of a previous 19th-century ancestor, so he was well knowledgeable about his family history. Gates Jr. went so far as to say that Norton was ready to discuss his family's history "better than any guest (he) can recall."

According to the actor, "I gotta be honest, one of the things that amazes me is that they were making these kinds of records in that kind of a tumultuous time." Norton's other ancestor enlisted in the Continental Army under George Washington in 1777.

At the conclusion of the show, Gates Jr. disclosed that Julia Roberts, who also makes an appearance in the ninth season of "Finding Your Roots," shared a DNA sequence with Norton that was enough similar to conclude that the two of them shared an ancestor from somewhere in their families' pasts.
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