Legend Sykes Cooper "Finding Your Roots"

Legend Sykes Cooper

Legend Sykes Cooper, a/k/a John Legend, Wanda Sykes, and Margarett Cooper are our celebrity guests for this episode of "Finding Your Roots".

Each one of our guests want to find out if they come from free people of color.

We start with:

Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes had a day job with the National Security Agency, a government agency. Wanda wanted to be a comedian and in the evenings she would go to the clubs and do stand up comedy. In the beginning the customers gave her a difficult time. Now she is a popular and well known comedian.

We are taken back to her ancestors John Francis and Elizabeth Banks they were married so they had to be free people. They had to carry their papers showing they were free people, otherwise they could be captured and put in slavery. John was born in 1820 and Elizabeth in 1825.

We are taken further back to Wanda's 5th great grandfather Benjamin Banks born circa 1765. A black man who owned 2 slaves Tab and Fanny. Why did he own slaves?

We now go back to her 9th great grandmother Elizabeth Banks, a white indentured servant, who through fornication and bastardy with a black slave gave birth to Mary Banks, Wanda's 8th great grandmother.

Watch the video to find out about the difference between indentured servants and slavery. Also the explanation how and where a person is considered a free person of color.

John Legend

John Legend is a musician and started piano lessons at 5 years old. He also started singing gospel music with his church. John is also searching to see if any of his ancestors were free people of

John's father was a factory worker and his mother a seamstress. They also home schooled John and his siblings. Unusual for the 1970s'.

We learn of his ancestor Peyton Polly, a slave owned by David Polly. We learn David Polly"s Will states that his slaves are to be set free upon his death. Mr. Polly also gave land and money to
Peyton Polly.

Douglas Polly is Peyton's brother and we are shown a Bill of Sale in 1849 selling 7 Polly children to Douglas. Why and what happens to them.

Watch the video for Peyton Polly's story about the kidnapping of his 8 children. It is rather a chilling experience.

Margarett Cooper

Margarett is 98 years young and a personal friend of Mr. Gates. She to wants to know if she descends from free people of color.

She is surprised to learn her 3rd great grandmother Susanna Speed won her freedom via the court system. She had difficult new choices to make. She consigned her children into indentured service for a period of time. Why?

Watch the video to find the answers to the meaning of free people, slavery, indentured servant.
Why people made the choice they did. Also see where their DNA leads these people.

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Enjoy the journey of Legend Sykes Cooper.

Watch John Legend and Wanda Sykes on PBS. See more from Finding Your Roots.

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