The story

With a flick of the wrist, James Johnson uses an elongated cotton swab along the inside of his 102-year old mother's cheek.

He's taken the first step in his search for answers to an existential question that plagues a majority of black Americans: Where did my ancestors come from?

For the Johnsons -- cousins of the Rand family, who are featured in "CNN Presents: Black in America" -- the answer arrives in the form of a certificate from African Ancestry Inc., a Maryland-based company that specializes in ancestral DNA testing for black Americans.

For this story, producers for the groundbreaking CNN documentary series facilitated the DNA sampling of matriarch Mineola Johnson to find out more about the Rand family's African roots.

Rand family members say William Harrison "Hal" Rand (1822-1909), a white farmer and slave owner whose great-grandfather emigrated to America from Kent, England, married Sarah Ann "Sallie" Mullens (1820-1893), and fathered the children of Ann Albrooks Rand, a black woman (1836-1907). Not much is known about Ann Albrooks Rand, but family members speculate that she was a domestic servant, based on U.S. Census data from 1870. See photos of the Rand family members Read full article »

CNN's Jack Lyons and Brian Rokus contributed to this report

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Encore Presentation
CNN's Soledad O'Brien unravels the mystery of the Rand family's mixed-race heritage and examines the successes and struggles faced by black women and families -- 40 years after the death of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Tonight, 8 p.m. ET

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