Americans Use DNA Tests to Trace African Roots

Obama's rise could accelerate trend
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2009 12:01 PM CST
Kenyan family members of Barack Obama celebrate after his victory in the election was announced, at the family's homestead in Kogelo village, Kenya, Nov. 5, 2008.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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(Newser) – As a kid, Isaiah Washington only knew Africans as the “natives running around with bones in their noses” on TV, “trying to put Tarzan in a pot.” Now, the former Grey’s Anatomy actor is chieftain of a village in Sierra Leone, thanks to a DNA test that allowed him to trace his ancestry back to the country, where he later gained citizenship. Such tests are gaining popularity, the LA Times reports, with notables from Oprah to Spike Lee signing up.

Many, like Washington, are now seeking dual citizenship. When those requests are granted, they tend to work out well for the homeland; Washington, for example, has contributed nearly $1 million to Sierra Leone. “African Americans are the richest Africans in the world,” said one political scientist requesting dual citizenship in Cameroon. “Africa can tap into us for our resources, and we can tap into them for our identities.”