On a recent episode of Finding My Roots, LeVar Burton was shocked to learn that he’s the descendant of a white Confederate soldier. But let’s back up a little bit.

The 10th season of PBS’ original series Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., is three episodes in, and on Jan. 18, viewers witnessed Burton find out that he is the descendant of a white man, which was previously unknown to him and his family. According to Gates, Burton’s maternal great-great-grandmother, Mary Sills, whom he met during childhood, was biracial. The Reading Rainbow alum always thought his lineage was of pure African-American descent, so the news caught him off guard.

“I had no idea. So Granny was half white. Wow,” Burton said.

Although a Black man who Sills believed was her biological father raised her, it was revealed that instead, she was the daughter of a white farmer named James Henry Dixon, who already had a wife and children when she was conceived with her mother, who was enslaved.

“And she was the other family on the other side,” the 66-year-old said as he processed the information out loud.

This led the Hollywood veteran to share his perspective about the complexities and inconsistencies of the white men who engaged with Black women during slavery since it didn’t align with their belief system.

“I often wonder about white men of the period and how they justify to themselves their relations with Black women, especially those in an unbalanced power dynamic. There has to be a powerful disconnect created emotionally and mentally,” Burton said to Gates.

He added, “So it’s possible in my mind that he could’ve contemplated it and was conflicted at worst, maybe repentant at best. And then there’s the possibility that he didn’t think about it at all.”

“Right, and we’ll never know,” Gates replied. “They could’ve been in love; it could’ve been something terrible. We don’t know.”

Still in shock from Gates’ findings, Burton jokingly mentioned his role of Kunta Kinte in the now-iconic miniseries, Roots.

“Kunta got white ancestry? What? Come on now, Skip,” he said.

Burton’s family history took another surprising turn when Gates shared that his great-great-grandfather was in the Confederate Army, the Southern militia that fought to keep the infrastructure of slavery.

“Are you kidding me? Oh my God. I did not see this coming,” the Star Trek star reacted.

Despite Dixon being in the army, Burton was told his relative likely didn’t fight in the Civil War due to being part of the junior reserves, aka soldiers who were guards. Regardless of that note, it left Burton with an uneasy feeling.

“There’s some conflict roiling inside of me right now, but also oddly enough I feel a pathway opening up … In this now moment, I believe that as Americans, we need to have this conversation about who we are and how we got here. But yet I see that we are so polarized politically and racially,” he said.

Burton, who hosted The National Book Awards in 2023, explained to Gates that his findings give him more ground to stand on to start having more open discussions about the history between Blacks and whites in the U.S. in regards to how it shaped us as a society.

“I’ve been looking for an entry point to talk to white America,” Burton said.

Check out a preview of LeVar Burton’s Finding My Roots episode below!