The Ugly Betty star has been delving into her ancestral past as part of the U.S. version of British genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are?, and has discovered two of her great-great-grandfathers battled to have slavery abolished.
On the show she breaks down as she finds out about her relatives' fight for equality, and remembers how her own father warned her she would have to work harder than anyone else because of her skin colour.
And following the revelation of her forefathers' campaign against racism, she opens up about her own experiences at the hands of bigots when she was crowned the first black Miss America when she was 20 years old.
She says, "There were race-hate messages and even death threats to me and my family. The cruelest things were said. There was a very angry minority who felt that, simply by being black, I had tarnished the Miss America crown. It rocked me to my core."
The show is set to be aired in America on Friday (04Feb11).