A recent DNA test has shown that Johnny Cash’s family history is a bit different than originally thought.
According to the Daily Mail, Vivian Liberto believed herself to be of Sicilian, German and Irish heritage, but in fact she was partly descended from slaves.
The test reportedly revealed that Liberto’s great-great-grandmother was a black slave, the outlet reports.
The DNA test came from a February episode of “Finding Your Roots: with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” in which Cash’s daughter Rosanne delved into her own ancestral background and was surprised to learn that her mother’s great-great-grandmother was Black.
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The woman’s name was Sarah Shields and she was released along with eight of her siblings because their father was white. Shields would marry a white man and her children were considered white.
It was recently revealed that Johhny Cash’s first wife, Vivian Liberto, had black heritage. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives /.)
“That is probably why, to this day, many of their direct descendants have no idea that they are of African American descent,” Gates said.
Roseanne, 65, found it “heartbreaking” that her ancestors were enslaved.
Cash and Liberto met at a skating rink in 1951 in San Antonio, Texas. The two married in 1954 and divorced in 1966.
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Liberto died of lung cancer in 2005 at the age of 71. Cash also died at age 71 in 2003.
According to the Daily Mail, interracial marriages weren’t legal until 1967 and the duo sued newspapers claiming she was black, and even presented evidence of her white upbringing and upbringing.
Johnny Cash with his first wife Vivian Liberto and daughters, Rosanne Cash and Kathy Cash 1957. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives /.)
Cash’s iconic “I Walk the Line” is reported to have been written about their marriage. In fact, the song’s title provided inspiration for the title of Liberto’s memoir, “I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny Cash,” which contained letters written between the two during Cash’s military days.
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His marriage ended when the country’s icon’s drug addiction escalated and his famous affair with singer June Carter began.
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DM reports that white supremacists proposed a boycott of Cash’s music in 1965, when a photo of Liberto supporting Cash in court showed his dark complexion.