Johnny Depp's African-American Roots

The Lone Ranger star's eighth great-grandmother was Elizabeth Key, the first African-American slave to sue for freedom.

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Johnny Depp attends a ceremony last month in honor of a Hollywood producer. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

While Johnny Depp's latest effort in The Lone Ranger as Tonto may be a box office flop, the actor has a great personal story to tell. New research from Ancestry.com reveals that he is a direct descendant of Elizabeth Key, a former slave who worked within the law to win her freedom on July 21, 1656.

Before there was the Lone Ranger and Tonto, there was ... Elizabeth Key and Chief Kanagatucko? New research from Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, reveals both Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp –the leading actors of Walt Disney Pictures’ “The Lone Ranger” -- are direct descendants of two real American freedom fighters.

Origin stories are the new movie magic for Hollywood, with the genesis of leading characters from comic books, fairy tales and fan fiction serving as the foundation for the latest blockbusters.  Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” is no exception, as the movie follows the transformation of betrayed lawman John Reid, played by Hammer, into a masked outlaw who fights for justice with the help of his guide, Tonto, a Native American spirit warrior played by Depp. 

To celebrate the release of the film, Ancestry.com investigated the two stars’ family trees and found that the fight for justice is not just a trait in their characters, but one than runs in their blood.  According to Ancestry.com’s expert family historians, Hammer is of Native American ancestry and the descendant of one of the earliest documented Cherokee leaders and known peace advocate, Chief Kanagatucko. Moreover, Johnny Depp’s eighth great-grandmother was Elizabeth Key, the first African American woman in the American colonies to sue for her freedom from slavery and win.

Read more at Ancestry.com.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM