Viola Davis has always felt connected to her mother's ancestors from South Carolina, even if she's never known much about them. The Academy Award-winning actor uncovers a "messy truth" about her family in the latest episode of "Finding Your Roots," thanks to a DNA test.
With the help of the show's host, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Davis, who grew up in Rhode Island, learns that her maternal grandfather kept a secret about his paternity from the rest of his family.
As it turns out, Davis' had two potential fathers. On his social security application, he listed a man named Gable Logan as his dad, but his obituary listed a man named John Young.
Davis, 57, is intrigued by the news, revealing that her mother had never mentioned this discrepancy before.
“Isn’t that interesting, that silence?” Gates asks her.
“Silence is always interesting to me,” the star responds.
According to historical records, Henry Logan's mother Corine Ravenell Logan married Gable Logan in 1912. The couple was together when Henry Logan, Davis' grandfather, was born in May of 1920.
Still, their being married doesn't prove that Gable Logan was his biological father.
Another record from 1919 shows that Gable Logan served in the military in World War I. When he returned to America from serving in France, there was "no evidence" that Gable Logan ever returned to South Carolina, where he had previously lived with his wife.
Naturally, the question on Gates' and Davis' minds at this point is: If Gable Logan never returned home, who was Henry Logan's father? Was it John Young?
When the show's host asks the actor for her take on the situation, she shares the following insight.
"I think Corine, I don't know, got bored, had a disconnect and went with someone else while (Gable Logan) was away. And I think that that was a very short-lived relationship," she says.
In 1920, the year Henry Logan was born, census data shows that Corine Logan was living with her parents down the street from Young, who was married.
With the help of DNA from Davis’ mother, the “Finding Your Roots” team got to work and discovered that Henry’s father was indeed Young.
"I’m the amalgamation of a lot of stories and a lot of secrets."Viola davis
In short? Davis' grandfather was likely the result of an affair between Corine Logan and Young. Henry Logan and his wife, Mozell Logan, went on to have "at least" 18 children, including Davis' mother, Mae Alice Davis.
“It makes me know that I entered this world with a big old load from the moment I came out of my mother's womb. I’m the amalgamation of a lot of stories and a lot of secrets,” she says in response to the news.
Corine Logan died when Henry was 6 years old. Young and his family eventually moved to North Carolina without Davis' grandfather.
After sharing this news, Gates asks Davis if she thinks Young's relationship with her great-grandmother might’ve had anything to do with his family's decision to move.
“Absolutely. You’ve gotta bury your secrets,” she says.
Davis suggests that Henry Logan must have felt “abandoned” and would probably have been labeled as “unwanted.”
Learning about her grandfather's childhood gave Davis renewed appreciation for his struggle.
"I think that all of us want to create a past that benefits us and our fantasies. I think because the other is too hard to process. We like stories that are going to elevate us. We’re not so good with messy truth and this is a messy truth," she says.
During the episode, Davis also learns about one of her ancestors who was born into slavery and was forced to fight alongside his owner’s son in the Confederate Army.
“It hurts my soul. It really does,” Davis says.
At the same time, Davis says she feels proud knowing how far her family has come.
"I'm proud because I think that me and a lot of my family members have broken generational curses because we dared to dream big and we dared to dig in deep in the dirt and filth and trauma of our childhood and want better for our lives ... My story is different and I'm proud of that," she says.