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5Condoleezza Rice: Former Secretary of State

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At a board meeting for D.C.’s Aspen Institute, Condoleezza Rice was approached about participating in the PBS series Finding Your Roots. Modern DNA analysis techniques are more powerful than ever, and when Rice agreed to be on the show, she had a previous viewpoint completely turned around. The first female

African-American secretary of state used to believe she came from a line of strong Black men. What her genealogy revealed, aside from the fact that she could trace her past back to the Tikar tribe of Cameroon, was that she came from a line of strong Black women, including her great, great grandmother Sinai, or “Zina.”

Rice also found that she has a high admixture of European DNA in the mix, prompting host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to note that the term “race” is about a lot more than color. Zina (no surname) was a single mother with five children. Rice already knew from family lore that Zina was a favored house-servant who was allegedly impregnated by her White (Italian) master. Italian given names were common throughout the generations that followed. “Condoleezza” comes from the combination of two words for a piano term meaning “with sweetness.” Rice rejects the terminology of “African-American,” as there is no corresponding use of “European-American,” just American.

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