“Finding Your Roots:” “The View” host Sunny Hostin learns Spanish ancestors owned slaves

“The View” host Sunny Hostin is known for her legal analysis and quick-witted rebuttals on the hot topics morning show. However, this time, the former lawyer turned journalist was astounded at what she uncovered about her family lineage. 

Tuesday episode of “Finding Your Roots” revealed the depth of Hostin’s lineage which was traced back to the American Civil War-riddled South in Georgia and also Spain. Hostin, who is both African-American and Puerto Rican, got clarity to her identity as a person with multiple ethnic backgrounds. 

The 55-year-old was stunned to learn through host Henry Louis Gates Jr. that her maternal Puerto Rican roots were traced back to reveal Spanish ancestry. A quarter of her background is from the Iberian Peninsula. But the most surprising revelation was that her fourth great-grandfather was a merchant “who was likely involved in the slave trade” in 1800s Spain, and his son, her third great-grandfather, “owned at least one human being,” Gates said.

“Finding Your Roots” went further back in Hostin’s Spanish ancestry and found a link to Spain’s colonial history.

“Wow, I’m a little bit in shock. I mean I’ve always thought of myself as half Puerto Rican. I didn’t think my family was originally from Spain and slaveholders.” She continued, “I guess this is a fact of life that some people made their living on the backs of others.”

Still shocked by the back-to-back revelations, Hostin said to Gates, “I had no idea the Spanish roots to this extent. I’m still sorta shocked at the depth of the ties.”

“What do you think all these white people came right out of the ground? They had to come from somewhere!” Gates joked.

“My mother’s family does look white so . . .” She trailed off.

“What you got against Spain?” Gates said.

“Just the colonization of other people!” she said. “My mother certainly identifies as Puerto Rican and non-white actually. So I hate this for her.”

Gates also shared that Hostin’s paternal African-American side had ties to the South. Her third great-grandfather Dean Harris was likely born into slavery in Georgia around 1835 and was emancipated after the Civil War. He changed his name to Cummings and with all the legal, political and social cards stacked against Black people in the South during the 1800s — he registered to vote in 1867. Immediately, Hostin was overcome with emotion.

“That’s amazing! In 1867? To vote?” Hostin exclaimed.

“He couldn’t even write his name,” Gates said.

“He signed an X,” Hostin said in shock.

Despite emancipation and the end of the Civil War, the South was still an incredibly unsafe place for newly freed people to live. The KKK beat and terrorized Black people in the town Hostin’s ancestors lived in a post-Civil War Georgia. But this didn’t stop Cummings from voting; he registered to vote nine times regardless of the terror inflicted by the KKK.

When Gates asked what Hostin thinks she inherited from her ancestors, she said, “Certainly, the determination to be involved in societal politics. I’m such a fighter when it comes to that.”

She continued, “I’ve actually never understood why it was so important to me. They say in Puerto Rico, ‘el sangre llama’ the blood calls you — maybe that’s a part of it.”

“Finding Your Roots” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.

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