Pose star Billy Porter got emotional on the season premiere of NBC‘s Who Do You Think You Are? as he uncovered some traumatic family secrets.
During the episode, Porter talked with Ancestry Family Historian / Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith about what really happened to his great-grandfather, Thomas Henry Richardson. “I do remember hearing a story that my great-grandfather got shot in the back,” Porter recalled (via Yahoo). “That’s as far as the conversation went.”
Sewell-Smith informed Porter that white newspapers at the time wrote stories “in a particular way” that differed from Black newspapers and showed him a report from the Pittsburgh Courier that identified that Porter’s great-grandfather was shot and killed by a police officer.
The story revealed that the Emmy-winning actor’s great-grandfather was shot in the breast, not his back. “Investigation discloses fact that white police officer ‘with reputation for shooting’ killed Joseph Richardson in cold blood,” read an emotional Porter.
Porter later learned that the police officer was freed of the murder charge by a jury. “The thing I hate the most on the planet is injustice,” he said. “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 color is wholly American, and reading this really sheds light on why it was never spoken about.”
Viewers felt Porter’s pain as they watched the episode, noting how injustices like this still continue to this day.
Billy Porter reading an article about his great grandfather being hunted and killed by a cop who was known to hunt down and kill people. 100 years ago.
Black people protested his murder. 100 years ago.
— 🌼Aries, Goddess of Whores🌻 (@ebonielon) July 11, 2022
I am watching @theebillyporter on the show #WhoDoYouThinkYouAre and my heart feels a little heavy seeing the discovery that his great grandfather was murdered by a yt cop in 1923. Here we are in 2022 still witnessing those same atrocities. My God🥺
— MzQueen👑 (@sunnidlyte76) July 10, 2022
Just cried my way through an Incredible episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” featuring @theebillyporter where he got to learn about the tragedies & triumphs of ancestors on both sides of his family. Highly recommend!!
— Kathryn (@katsbreez) July 11, 2022
— Amber (@ElenaChloe1719) July 11, 2022
Elsewhere in the episode, Porter found out that his great, great, great-grandparents were part of the 10% of Black people in America that were freed inhabitants early on.
This was empowering to the Tony-winner, who said, “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.”
Who Do You Think You Are?, Sundays, 7/6 c, NBC