Singer Lionel Richie was left awestruck after discovering his great-grandfather was born to a slave and her white plantation owner while tracing his family history on U.S. show Who Do You Think You Are on Friday (13Apr12).
Richie was blown away by the findings as he travelled back to his hometown of Tuskegee, Alabama to trace his roots on the documentary programme.
The star's great-grandfather John Lewis Brown was born to a servant named Mariah and her white Cumberland River plantation owner, Morgan W. Brown.
The Hello hitmaker also unearthed a will written in 1839 by Morgan W. Brown's father Dr. Morgan Brown and was shocked to learn his distant relative Mariah had been treated compassionately.
Richie explains, "In his will, Dr. Morgan Brown says that Mariah should be free from slavery, and then he goes onto say that once her unborn child is born, he should be freed just like his mother.
"And not only does Dr. Brown leave Mariah a place for her and her son to live, but he also gives my great-grandfather two years of schooling. Unbelievable. That is absolutely unheard of back then. The law was not to educate (slaves)... I feel so relieved for Mariah because there is some compassion... (even though) it was an extremely brutal time."