The street-survival gene runs strong in 50 Cent, as his ancestors have been mired in street battles, bloodshed and violence, long before the gun attack that nearly ended his life.The rapper-actor-entrepreneur’s family tree will be traced on the new VH1 documentary, “50 Cent: The Origin of Me,” to air on May 23 (check your local listings).
With help from local genealogists and census data, 50 manages to find his great-great-great grandmother, Jane Jenkins, who lived and worked as a slave in the mid-1800’s.
In the documentary, 50 Cent treks to Edgefield, S.C., aka “Bloody Edgefield,” a small town that was also a hotbed of racism and violence. Bloody Edgefield is also the birthplace of segregationist Strom Thurmond.
Author Jack Beaty confirms the small South Carolina town had earned its ominous nickname: “During the first half of the 19th century, according to one study, rural South Carolina had a murder rate four times as high as that of urban Massachusetts. The rate in Edgefield was thought by one scholar to be perhaps twice that of South Carolina as a whole.”
50 Cent opens his eyes to his own street life in Queens, when it is revealed that his ancestors had similar deadly encounters with the infamous Red Shirts, a racist organization that was more sophisticated and vicious than the KKK. The Red Shirts were an integral part of the history of racial supremacy in America.
Noted historian William Gillette, author of Retreat from Reconstruction, wrote: “Even after the Klan and the Knights had disbanded, their political purpose and terrorist tactics survived and became even more effective in such new, more highly disciplined organizations as the rifle clubs and the Red Shirts of South Carolina, the White Liners of Mississippi, the White Man’s Party in Alabama, and the White Leaguers of Louisiana.”
For 50 Cent, the trip down memory lane gives him a new perspective on the violence and struggle for survival that he’s experienced as a young Black man in Queens.