Did a Family Secret Stop Alicia Keys from Tracing Her Roots?

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Every family has secrets they’d rather not broadcast to the world. The same goes for Alicia Keys, who canceled an appearance on Prof. Henry Louis Gates’ PBS show, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr, because of her late African-American grandmother, Vergil DiSalvatore (pictured).

Speaking at a panel for the show, Gates recalled how he sent Keys the forms for the show: “We send people a form,” he said. “We need as much information as you can give us. Like the names of your parents, where they were born, grandparents etc., whatever you can give us.”

“Her grandmother said, ‘Baby, you can’t be in the series. I can’t tell you why, but you can’t be in the series.’”

Keys’ has called DiSalvatore, who passed in 2006, one of her greatest influences. Another person who turned down an appearance on the show was former secretary of state, Colin Powell.

On Finding Your Roots, Gates helps famous Americans trace their genealogy. Season 4 of the show premieres this Sunday on PBS.

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