Mahershala Ali

Ali in 2016, photo by DFree/

Birth Name: Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore

Place of Birth: Alameda, California, United States

Date of Birth: February 16, 1974

Ethnicity: African-American

Mahershala Ali is an American actor and rapper. He has twice won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for Moonlight (2016) and Green Book (2018). He is the first Muslim male to have won an acting Oscar. He is also known for his roles in The 4400, House of Cards, True Detective, The Hunger Games franchise, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, among many others. He has also been credited as Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Mahershala Karim-Ali, and Hershal Gilmore.

He is the son of Willicia (Goines) and Phillip Fredick Gilmore. He is named after Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the second mentioned prophetic-name child in Isaiah ch.7-9. The name means “Hurry to the spoils!” or “He has made haste to the plunder!” He was raised in Hayward, California.

Much of his ancestry is rooted in Texas. He was raised Christian by his mother, a Baptist minister. He later converted to Ahmadiyya Islam. This is a revivalist movement within Islam. He changed his surname from Gilmore to Ali. Mahershala is married to Amatus-Sami Karim, with whom he has a daughter.

When winning a 2017 Screen Actors Guild Award, Mahershala said:

My mother is an ordained minister, I’m a Muslim. She didn’t do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago. But I tell you now, you put things to the side. And I’m able to see her, and she’s able to see me. We love each other and the love has grown. And that stuff is minutia. It’s not that important.

Mahershala’s patrilineal line can be traced to John Gilmore, who was born, c. 1834, in North Carolina.

Mahershala’s paternal grandfather was Clarence Hugh Gilmore (the son of Payne Gilmore and Bertha V. Owens). Clarence was born in Texas. Payne was the son of Wallace D. Gilmore and Eglon Ards Taylor. Bertha was the daughter of Moses/Mose S. Owens and Nora Alice McCoy.

Mahershala’s paternal grandmother is the daughter of Wilson Maddox and Ella Mae Johnson. Wilson was the son of Wilson Maddox and Delcia Annie/Anna. Ella was the daughter of Robert Johnson and Minnie Ella Hadnot.

Mahershala’s maternal grandfather is Willie Goines (the son of Willie Goines and Jessie Peacock). Willie was born in Missouri.

Mahershala’s maternal grandmother was Evia Mae “Evie” Smith (the daughter of Pervy Lee Smith and Gertha/Girtha Poe). Evia was born in Kentucky, and was an ordained minister at Hayward Baptist Church. Gertha was the daughter of Tony/Toney J. J. Poe and Savanah/Savannah Smith.

Sources: Genealogy of Mahershala Ali –

Marriage record of Masherhala’s maternal grandparents, Willie Goines and Evia Mae Smith –

2 Responses

  1. Kimmel says:

    Looks partially Haitian.

  2. follers says:

    If he wins the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, I believe he’ll be the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar.

    Although I’m somewhat unsure of Ellen Burstyn.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.