On next Monday’s Who Do You Think You Are? Actress Regina King is featured in an episode where she is shocked to learn that one of her ancestors, a man named Moses Hughes, was part of an early resistance in the 1800s in heavily segregated post-Civil War Alabama.
We learn of the “Black List”, described as a tool of intimidation, meant to prevent blacks from being hired or to prevent white shopkeepers from selling any goods to them directly.
It gave permission for white men and woman to attack at will those who were listed. The moment that a person’s name was posted on the “Black List” in Alabama, there was a target on their back.
In gripping detail, actress Regina King investigates her maternal family tree and uncovers an ancestor who was a passionate civil rights activist in Alabama. Her relative was a man who emerged from slavery, and who endured unimaginable violence, but never stopped fighting for his people or his place in the world.
King is enraged as she reads copy from an old newspaper found during the producer’s research, which details how her ancestor fought hard against racism and repression.
Cut to today’s headlines of police brutality and ongoing examples of institutionalized racism, and King goes from tears to anger in a split second.
The microfiche and microfilm that the researchers have discovered are from The Independent Monitor which was dated September of 1868.
One passage read to King by a researcher states: “The names published below belong to a few of those incendiary negroes of Tuscaloosa who have made themselves particularly odious to the superior race by their threatening words and punishable acts.”
One of the names is Moses Hughes of Northport, King’s ancestor mentioned on this “Black List.”
King is solemn, shocked and tears form in her eyes. You can see changes in her demeanor and in her face as her fury over the injustices of the past and the ongoing abuses of the present suddenly rise into a palpable rage.
Quietly and with great intent, she says: “Where we are now, when young black men are murdered by the police and the pictures that are created, about their character…and that this is over a hundred years ago and is still happening, so just a little anger and sadness, maybe a lot of anger.”
Last month, King won best supporting actress from the New York Film Critics Circle for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk, a romantic drama based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel. The film goes nationwide on Christmas Day.
King was also named best-supporting actress by the National Board of Review and was nominated (same category) by the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice awards and she is considered a front-runner to take home the Oscar.
TLC’s Emmy Award-winning series, Who Do You Think You Are? returned on December 3rd with a new group of celebrities who explore their family roots.
Who Do You Think You Are? airs Monday at 10:00 pm Eastern / 9:00 pm Central on TLC.