Lee Daniels

Daniels in 2013, photo by DFree/Bigstock.com

Place of Birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Date of Birth: December 24, 1959

Ethnicity: African-American

Lee Daniels is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He has directed the films Shadowboxer, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, The Paperboy, which he also co-wrote; Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and The United States vs. Billie Holiday, and co-created, directed episodes of, and wrote for, the shows Empire and Star.

Lee is the son of Clara May (Watson) and William Louis Daniels, a police officer, who was killed in the line of duty, c. 1975. He is a cousin of drag performer, singer, songwriter, actor, and activist Honey Davenport (born James Clark). He adopted his niece and nephew, with his then-partner, casting director Billy Hopkins.

A DNA test whose results were displayed on the show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (2022) stated that Lee’s genetic ancestry consists of:

*70% African
——–*40% Nigeria
——–*14% Benin/Togo
——–*13% Cameroon/Congo
——–*2% Mali
——–*1% Senegal
*29% European
——–*19% England + NW Europe
——–*6% Ireland
——–*2% Scotland
——–*1% Wales
——–*1% Sweden
*1% Native American

Genetically, he was found to have a common ancestor with actress and activist Mia Farrow, likely through shared European ancestry.

Lee’s paternal grandfather was Otis Lee Daniels (the son of Rufus Hunter and Ada Daniel/Daniels). Otis was born in Durham, North Carolina. Ada was the daughter of Novel Daniel, who was born into slavery, and of Opposette Ferrell/Tatum. Lee’s great-grandfather Rufus had had children with both Ada and her (though not his) daughter.

Lee’s paternal grandmother was Willie Gray “Grace” Hammie (the daughter of William/Willie Green Hammie and Mattie Lyon). Lee’s grandmother Willie was born in Durham, North Carolina. Lee’s great-grandfather William was the son of John J. Hammie and Evelyn. Mattie was the daughter of Alex Lyon and Mary.

Lee’s maternal grandfather was Edward Overton Watson, Jr. (the son of Edward Overton Watson and Mary Elizabeth Pierce). Lee’s great-grandfather Edward had killed his wife Mary Elizabeth, evidently over an affair of hers, and then attempted to commit suicide, unsuccessfully.

Lee’s maternal grandmother was Clara May Leecan (the daughter of Charles Augustus Leecan and Mary Louse Williams). Charles was the son of Charles Leecan and Irene Collins. Irene’s parents were free black people in 1850 Philadelphia, and were originally from Delaware.

Source: Marriage record of Lee’s paternal great-grandparents, William/Willie Green Hammie and Mattie Lyon – https://www.familysearch.org

1 Response

  1. bablah says:


    >Mattie Lyon). Willie was born in Durham, North Carolina. William was the son of John J. Hammie and Evelyn. Mattie was the daughter of Alex Lyon and Mary.

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