Birth Name: Frederick Samuel Kotto
Date of Birth: November 15, 1939
Place of Birth: New York City, New York, U.S.
Date of Death: March 15, 2021
Place of Death: Manila, Philippines
Ethnicity: Jewish Cameroonian/Duala [African] and Antiguan, Panamanian [African-Panamanian]
Yaphet Kotto was an American actor. He was known for his roles in the films The Running Man, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Alien, and many others, and the series Homicide: Life on the Street.
His parents were both black. His first name means “beautiful” in Hebrew. Yaphet’s father, Avraham/Yaphet Kotto (originally named Njoki Manga Bell), was a businessperson from Cameroon, who was Jewish. He was said to be “the crown prince of Cameroon.”
Yaphet’s mother, Gladys María (Joseph), was a nurse and U.S. Army officer. Gladys was of Antiguan and Panamanian [African-Panamanian] descent. She converted to Judaism.
Yaphet was a practicing Jew.
Yaphet was married to Tessie Sinahon, until his death. He had three children with his former wife Rita Ingrid Dittman, and three children with his former wife Antoinette Pettyjohn.
He is said to have been descended from King Bell V, August Manga Ndumbé.
Yaphet had said:
[My father] instilled Judaism in me. Everything the Jewish religion stands for, from an African’s point of view, he left those things in me – especially things that had to do with the New Testament, which he was thoroughly, totally against.
Yaphet’s paternal grandparents were named Joseph Kotto and Maria. His great-grandfather was said to have been King Alexander Bell, who ruled the Douala region in the late 1800s.
Yaphet’s maternal grandfather was Samuel Joseph (the son of William Joseph and Sarah Barns). Samuel was born in St. John’s, Antigua.
Yaphet’s maternal grandmother was Leontine Cleopatra Ellis (the daughter of Alfred Ellis and Charlotte LeGore/LaGore). Leontine was born in Panama. Alfred was from the British West Indies.
Sources: Genealogy of Yaphet Kotto – https://www.geni.com
Yaphet Kotto on the 1940 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org
U.S. Social Security application record of Yaphet’s mother – https://aad.archives.gov
Naturalization record of Yaphet’s maternal grandfather, Samuel Joseph – https://www.familysearch.org
U.S. Social Security application record of Yaphet’s maternal grandfather, Samuel Joseph – https://aad.archives.gov
U.S. Social Security application record of Yaphet’s maternal grandmother, Leontine Cleopatra (Ellis) Joseph – https://aad.archives.gov