By Becca Longmire.

Billy Porter uncovered some family secrets during the season premiere of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?”

The emotional episode saw Porter discover what really happened to his great-grandfather, Thomas Henry Richardson.

He shared of his death, “I do remember hearing a story that my great-grandfather got shot in the back. That’s as far as the conversation went,” according to Yahoo!

Porter had Richard’s death certificate to hand, as well as multiple newspaper articles from 1923, which confirmed he was shot in the breast and not the back.

Ancestry Family Historian/Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith told Porter that white newspapers at that time wrote stories “in a particular way” that differed from Black newspapers.

Sewell-Smith brought up a Pittsburgh Courier story that identified that Porter’s great-grandfather was shot and killed by a police officer.

“Investigation discloses fact that white police officer ‘with reputation for shooting’ killed Joseph Richardson in cold blood,” Porter read.

Billy Porter on “Who Do You Think You Are?” Credit: Harris Khan/NBC
Billy Porter on “Who Do You Think You Are?” Credit: Harris Khan/NBC

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The actor learned that the police officer who shot and killed Richardson was freed of the murder charge by the jury.

Porter insisted, “The thing I hate the most on the planet is injustice.

“How do we continually take in this information, continually take in this trauma, continually live through this, and still show up for our lives?

“Violence against people of colour is wholly American and reading this really sheds light on why it was never spoken about.”

Porter later discovered that his great, great, great-grandparents were part of the 10 per cent of Black people in the U.S. that were freed inhabitants early on.

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He shared, “Now when somebody asks me, ‘How do you have so much strength? How can you stand up to a world that dismisses you?’ It’s, like, I come from this on both sides. You know, I came from people who were making a way out of no way the whole time. I am who I am because of who I come from.

“All these centuries later, me coming down here has made my family seen in ways that they never could have imagined. And, you know, what I’m grateful for in discovering and uncovering these specific stories from both sides of my family, it feels empowering, magical actually.”

See some of the Twitter reaction to the episode below.


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Ellen Bullock