by ethnic on December 29, 2007

2007 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Birth Name: Prince Rogers Nelson

Date of Birth: June 7, 1958

Place of Birth: Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota, United States

Date of Death: April 21, 2016

Place of Death: Chanhassen, Minnesota

Ethnicity: African-American

Prince was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He is remembered for his amazing vocal range and ability to play multiple instruments proficiently. His songwriting is also highly acclaimed. He wrote some of the best hits for many other artists.

Prince was the son of Mattie Della (Shaw), a jazz singer, and John L. Nelson (John Lewis/Louis Nelson), a lyricist and pianist. His father performed with the jazz group the Prince Rogers Trio, under the stage name Prince Rogers. He was married to actress and dancer Mayte Garcia. They had a son, Ahmir, who died a week after birth.

Prince’s parents were both black, as were all of his grandparents and great-grandparents. A picture of Prince’s father can be seen here. A picture of Prince’s mother can be seen here.

Genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, writing for The Huffington Post, traced Prince’s roots on both sides of his family. Among her findings are that all of Prince’s grandparents were born in Louisiana, six of his eight great-grandparents were born into slavery, and one of his great-grandmothers was possibly the daughter of her owner.

Early in his career, Prince stated that he had Italian ancestry, sometimes from his father, and sometimes from his mother. This is not accurate. In the autobiographical film Purple Rain, Prince’s character’s father is played by an African-American actor and Prince’s character’s mother is played by a Greek actress.

Prince’s paternal grandparents were Clarence Allen Nelson (the son of Edward Nelson and Emma Hardy) and Carrie Jenkins (the daughter of Handy Jenkins and Dina Ann Phillips). Edward was the son of John Nelson. Dina was the daughter of Ashley Phillips and Martha.

Prince’s maternal grandparents were Frank Shaw (the son of Preston Shaw and Eliza Britt/Brett) and Lucille Bonnell (the daughter of Sam W. Bonnell and Katy/Kate F. Hale or Head).

Sources: Genealogies of Prince –

Prince’s paternal grandfather, Clarence Allen Nelson, on the 1900 U.S. Census –

Prince’s paternal great-grandparents, Edward Nelson and Emma Hardy, on the 1880 U.S. Census –

Prince’s maternal grandmother, Lucille Bonnell, on the 1900 U.S. Census –

photo by prphotos

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

neiltennant April 9, 2017 at 5:49 am

it is impossible that he had only AFRICAN AMERICAN roots

he had hazel eyes(even in his high school years) and nearly green eyes

plus relative pale skin

andrew December 30, 2016 at 7:20 pm
andrew July 20, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Edward Nelson listed as “mulatto” on 1880 U.S. Census

savanna June 8, 2016 at 8:48 am

According to Geni:
Prince’s great grandfather “Edward Nelson, was the son of a wealthy white slave owner and a freed Cherokee Slave. Denounced by his half-brothers for his marriage to a black woman, Nelson left Louisiana and traveled throughout Arkansas and Louisiana as a minister for the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.”

Prince’s great grandfather Sam Bonnell on the census

follers June 8, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Edward Nelson was the son of a white father and a Cherokee mother? Do they have any evidence for either statement?

Edward is listed as “Black” on the 1900 U.S. Census.

As for Sam Bonnell (“Bonnelle”), if that’s Prince’s great-grandfather, then why are both of his parents listed as “White”, and from Mississippi and Alabama?

On the 1900 census, Prince’s great-grandfather Sam is listed as “Black”, and the son of parents from Louisiana.

I think the geni folks identified the wrong Sam Bonnell, and Sam’s parents.

neiltennant May 4, 2016 at 8:19 am

i cried 3 days permanently when this SEXY MF died

Mafia888 April 30, 2016 at 9:27 am
Mafia888 April 30, 2016 at 9:27 am

Did he bleach his skin and get plastic surgery?

neiltennant April 9, 2017 at 5:48 am

PLASTIC SURGERY due to look younger ? YES !


no he did not

i have seen pictures of him from his high school days ca.1974

and he was rather pale for an african american and i have seen close pics from him of that era
he always had that relative pale skin and hazel eyes (nearly greenish eyes)

Mafia888 April 30, 2016 at 7:42 am

Did he have Creole in him?

phaedra April 28, 2016 at 6:34 pm

He is not full African. At least his recent ancestor (parent or grandparent) has to be European.

crunty May 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Italian, according to some.

savanna April 28, 2016 at 4:34 pm

J W Bonnell in the 1900 United States Federal Census
Name: J W Bonnell
Age: 71
Birth Date: Nov 1828
Birthplace: Mississippi
Home in 1900: Police Jury Ward 1, Lincoln, Louisiana
Race: White
Marital Status: Married
Spouse’s Name: Martha Jane Bonnell
Marriage Year: 1855
Years Married: 45
Father’s Birthplace: Ohio
Mother’s Birthplace: South Carolina

“Prince’s parents were both black, as were all of his grandparents and great-grandparents.” This statement is false.

follers April 28, 2016 at 4:50 pm

It isn’t false. Sam Bonnell was black or biracial. The statement only refers to great-grandparents.

Sam on the census:

savanna April 28, 2016 at 6:19 pm

Sam’s father is white, so he is biracial.

follers April 28, 2016 at 7:06 pm

When it says that all of someone’s great-grandparents are “black”, it means that they are at least part black. It doesn’t mean that both of their own parents were black. If it meant that, it would also mean that both of ”their” own parents were black, too, and so on, so no one could ever be called black unless you knew that all of their ancestry was black going back to Africa.

That’s why I wrote, all “great-grandparents” were black, as opposed to all “great-great-grandparents”. Otherwise what’s the difference?

It’s possible that Sam’s father was white, but I’m not totally sure. The census just calls Sam black, but that doesn’t rule it out.

savanna April 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm

It just sounds misleading in the article

follers April 28, 2016 at 7:22 pm

It doesn’t. Especially considering that the census says the same thing.

savanna April 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm

A person related to Prince thru the Bonnell line said it traced back to England which is where it split with mine.
Basically, all I know is that Prince’s mom was at the bare minimum 1/4 white, probably more.
And that Prince’s paternal grandmother (his father’s mom) was Carrie Jenkins (see photo), daughter of Dina Ann Jenkins, who is listed as a “Mulatto” housekeeper from Georgia on genealogy records.
He was generationally mixed.”

follers April 28, 2016 at 7:58 pm

Of course Prince had white ancestry, like all people of African-American descent. But his great-grandparents were all black, and I’m not sure if a specific white ancestor has been verified yet.

(“Mulatto” doesn’t necessarily mean a direct mix, btw, as I discussed with Andrew on the Jimi Hendrix page.)

fuzzybear44 April 28, 2016 at 10:17 pm


Quote:(He was generationally mixed.”)

Which makes him African American

savanna April 29, 2016 at 6:13 am

“Which makes him African American”

African American with distant English

fuzzybear44 April 30, 2016 at 12:25 am


Well that’s pretty much a standard thing. I mean everyone knows that the black population here, as well as the vast majority of the black people on this side of the hemisphere, are of mixed ethnicity. I understand, if you’re just trying to be more accurate with his breakdown , but his cultural identity is still African American. That’s like a Puerto Rican taking a DNA test, and it shows Euro ancestry. Does that now mean that person is now more than Puerto Rican, or is that person still a Puerto Rican?

savanna April 27, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Prince’s great-grandfather Samuel Walter Bonnell was mixed, Sam’s father Thomas James Bunnell was white (likely of English descent).

follers April 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm

How do they know that Sam Bonnell was the son of Thomas James Bunnell? They list Sam’s mother (presumably black) as the wife of Thomas (white), which was basically impossible, although they may not mean literally “wife”.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak doesn’t refer to this ancestry of Prince. Do we know if it’s verified?

allennox April 22, 2016 at 8:42 pm

if mj was the king

allennox April 22, 2016 at 8:41 pm

He truly was a prince

Gurrl April 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm

rip legend

Alice April 22, 2016 at 3:00 am

We’ve lost too many legends in quick succession. Prince will be very missed. I’m so sorry to hear about his untimely death.

follers April 22, 2016 at 2:56 am

Prince did claim many times to have an Italian mother or a father of half-Italian descent, early in his career.

fuzzybear44 April 22, 2016 at 3:05 am


Well they did say Italians seen as black back in the day. So maybe those pics of his parents, are one black and one Italian(I’ll let you decide which one )

andrew April 22, 2016 at 7:00 pm

It’s better for your to stop to troll.

andrew April 22, 2016 at 7:01 pm

*for you

fuzzybear44 April 22, 2016 at 12:29 am


Quote(typical Sicilian)

If that’s what a typical Sicilian looked like back in the day, no wonder they weren’t allowed to marry white Americans in the past

andrew April 22, 2016 at 1:35 am

Manila added the record of this Sicilian immigrant. It’s a good example of Sicilian look.

fuzzybear44 April 22, 2016 at 3:17 am


Well that an example of a Italian in 1959, however that’s just one example. Man I learn so much more about stuff when I debate people like you. Here an image I just found from Italy 1920 ,bruh got two women:
he might be part black, might not , but sure looks it

fuzzybear44 April 22, 2016 at 3:19 am
andrew April 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm

LOL. Are you into Nordicism now?

fuzzybear44 April 22, 2016 at 12:23 am


Quote(In reply to neiltennant.
@California ALL black people both light and dark skinned were slightly mixed because of slavery. But in America especially blacks DID NOT freely marry whites until about 20 yrs ago. African Americans are not that mixed. Light skin means nothing. There are dark skinned blacks more mixed than light ones. Skin tone is not an indication of admixture. Its hair, facial structure etc. That trumps skin tone. Just because a black person has light skin does not mean they are mixed. Thats a WRONG assumption.)

I sorry, but I have to interject here. What you said here about :

( But in America especially blacks DID NOT freely marry whites until about 20 yrs ago.)

That’s not correct. Blacks and whites were actually marrying each other in 16 and 1700’s. Many of the first AA families , were actually headed by white women , example( Nell Butler was famous case ) .This is one of the reasons they came up with the anti-miscegenation laws. Slave owners also encourage unions between their Black and white slaves , to produce children that were bound to slavery. Then even when they pass laws forbidding unions between the races, white men signed petitions to get the laws overturned. It’s a lot of things that went down here.

fuzzybear44 April 22, 2016 at 12:00 am

Men, first the king of pop MJ, now Prince. Another musical icon gone. R.I.P Prince

Alice April 22, 2016 at 3:01 am

Very sad that these musical giants died too soon.

neiltennant December 31, 2016 at 1:17 pm

He was my idol

i loved him so much

he was always my idol when i was a small child and saw him singing SEXY MF

savanna April 21, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Genealogist Megan Smolenyak wrote on Twitter: “at least one of his great-grandmothers was the child of her one-time owner”.
So Emma Hardy, Dina Ann Phillips, Kathy ?, or another of his great-grandmothers was white.

midori29 April 21, 2016 at 2:06 pm

@Savana, you can find that in every single black person.

savanna April 21, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Maybe most American black people.

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