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The Origin of Black People With Blue Eyes

Updated on January 20, 2017

People pay very little attention to common eye colors, which explains why I get very little to no compliments on my big brown peepers. We tend to be captivated by rare traits or unusual combinations such as black people with blue eyes.

Blues eyes are uncommon among blacks, especially those with no Caucasian ancestry, they almost always have brown eyes. Research has found that almost everyone with blue eyes is linked to an ancient genetic mutation. However, a small fraction get their blue eye color as a result of a health condition such as ocular albinism that affects pigmentation in the eye.

Take a look at some extreme examples of Black Africans and Black Americans with blue eyes.

Black Celebs With Blue Eyes

Michael Ealy is a film actor notorious for his charming looks and well known for his role in the movie Barbershop. He is my first example of a black Hollywood actor with blue eyes.

Michael Ealy
Michael Ealy | Source
Another black guy with blue eyes is film producer and director Stephen Belafonte — pictured here with Melanie B.
Another black guy with blue eyes is film producer and director Stephen Belafonte — pictured here with Melanie B. | Source

And finally, a few more Hollywood stars with blue eyes include:

  • Chris Williams and his older sister Vanessa Williams
  • actress Denise Vasi

Black Babies With Blue Eyes

Meet a black baby with blue eyes: Laren Galloway. He should be a lot older now, but these are some of the photos that made him famous. His surprisingly blue eyes are impossible to miss. As written on his blog, both of his parents are Black Americans.

Here is a beautiful little black girl with blue eyes. She has a twin sister with complete heterochromia - just like Amy in the movie X-men. But in this case one eye is blue and the other brown. Amy had blue/green heterochromia.

Science has told us that eye color can change with age. There is therefore a small chance that those baby blues might start drifting away towards green, teal or even hazel as these children grow up. But I have a feeling they will be rocking their blue eyes for a very long time.

An African Child With Blue Eyes

How does it feel to be the only one in town with blue eyes? This African child surely knows all about it. His intense velvety blue eyes gave rise to the term “sapphire eyes”, due to their close resemblance to the blue sapphire.

He has sapphire eyes
He has sapphire eyes | Source

Before you get skeptical about the authenticity of the "sapphire eyes", you should know that the picture wasn't photoshopped or altered in any way. As you can imagine, the photographer was immediately challenged when the picture was first published. She immediately rejected the idea and assured everyone that the picture was 100% authentic.

As we have seen so far on this page, there are quite a few black people with blue eyes. As long as Mother Nature is in charge, it is possible for anyone, irrespective of their ancestry to have any eye color. So place yours bets with caution, anything is possible when it comes to eye color.

With that said, let’s move on to an interesting story.

The Origin of People With Blue Eyes

A long time ago, everyone on this planet had brown eyes. The first light-eyed human emerged only about 10000 years ago, he or she had blue eyes. This story was told by Professor Hans Eiberg and his team of Danish scientists from the University of Copenhagen1.

In their study, Eiberg and his team recruited 800 blue-eyed men and women across different countries. They studied the genes that code for blue eyes in all of these individuals.

They were able to conclude that all blue-eyed folks have the exact same DNA sequence that accounts for their blue eyes. They also found that this DNA sequence contains an ancient genetic mutation that occurred presumably 10000 years ago around South-Eastern Europe. In other words, Matt Damon and Elijah Wood are your distant cousins, if you have blue eyes. In fact, everyone with blue eyes is related.

On the other hand, people with brown eyes have a significantly higher degree of inter-individual variation in their eye-color genes.

How did Brown Eye Mutate to Blue 10000 Years Ago?

Genetics is fascinating!

The mutation that gave rise to blue eyes altered the OCA2 gene, a gene that codes for the production of the brown pigment (melanin) in our eyes.

To keep things simple and preventing you from falling asleep, let’s assume the OCA2 gene is the recipe and melanin is one of the ingredients used to produce eye color. The mutation was like an error in the recipe which led to the amount of the ingredient, melanin, to be altered, resulting to very little melanin production in the iris of the eyes. The low melanin concentration is insufficient to produce the default color in brown eyes, but enough to express blue eyes2.

For 10000 years, the blue-eye gene has been passed on from parents to offspring and spreading to different geographical regions. A descendant expresses blue eyes if he or she inherited the right set of genes from both parents. It is believed that almost every blue-eyed person on earth today inherited the said mutation from the same source.

A tiny fraction of blue eyes are caused by health conditions such as waardenburg syndrome and ocular albinism; they are characterized by pigmentation problems. These medical conditions can affect as much as six different genes that are responsible for eye color. These health conditions impact the growth and development of pigment-producing cells, potentially leading to a much lower pigment concentration than in the case of the OCA2 mutation.

Apart from pigmentation defect, waardenburg syndrome is associated with congenital hearing loss and heterochomria. Ocular albinism just like other forms of albinism has been linked to severe ocular defects including high sensitivity to light and involuntary eye movements.

Why are There So Many Blue Eyes in Europe?

Almost everyone in Africa and Asia has brown eyes. This is also true for most of the rest of the world. In contrast, Europe has the widest variety of eye color. It also has the largest proportion of people with blue eyes. In fact, over 80% of the inhabitants of Estonia and Finland have blue eyes.

Is there anyone in your family (father, mother and children) with blue eyes?

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But why are there so many blue-eyed people in Europe? The first thing to consider is the epicenter of the blue-eye gene mutation, which was around the regions of Europe. This might be one of the most important factors to explain the high proportion of blue eyes in Europe.

Another important hypothesis is partner selection. The gist is that partner selection was much stronger in ancestral Europe than anywhere else in the world. In other words, a European guy in those days was more attracted to women with blue eyes than those with brown eyes. This type of selection might have increased the likelihood of giving birth to a child with blue eyes. This explains the big difference in eye color diversity in Europe versus the rest of the world3. Both hypotheses also explains why the proportion of black people with blue eyes may be the smallest.


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    • profile image

      frumpleton 6 months ago

      My two sisters and I all have different eye color and hair color. One has hazel brown, one has blue/green and the other has green eyes. Hair colors: blonde/green eyes, dark brown hair/hazel br. eyes/ red/brownish hair and bluish green eyes. My dad had dark hair and brown eyes. My mother had light brown hair and bluish eyes. Brown eyes don't seem to always dominate.

    • Glenis Rix profile image

      Glenis Rix 6 months ago from UK

      I once knew an African Caribbean man who had blue eyes. I assumed that their history lay in the slave trade, when some white slavers would breed children with their female slaves.

    • Cee-Jay Aurinko profile image

      Cee-Jay Aurinko 6 months ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      I'm a browned eyed guy. Everyone in my family has brown eyes as far as I know. Well, almost. I have a cousin that yellowish eyes. Like for real. Guy looks like a cat. Great hubbing, Edmund Custers.

    • anatomynotes profile image

      Edmund Custers 6 months ago

      Hi Frumpleton, the inheritance of eye color is complicated and you've just presented a good example of how a parent with brown eyes have been kids with lighter eye colors. Thanks!

      Hi Glenis, Cee-Jay A., thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    • rodrigo sebidos profile image

      Rodrigo Sebidos 6 months ago from Zone2 Brgy.Guadalupe, Baybay City, Leyte, Philippines

      Very possible because of mutation, a sudden heritable change. For instance, the Eve gene for eye/skin color originated from a black woman, a mutation that occurred in the mitochondria thousands of years ago. Mitochondria is a cell organelle that possessed its own DNA independent of the DNA in the Nucleus of the Cell. This genetic anomaly is transmitted only by women since they are the one that contributes the mitochondrial DNA through the egg(sexual gametes)

    • profile image

      Savage 2 months ago

      The blue eye gene came from one fallen angel with blue eyes and dark skin. It's in the book of Enoch.

    • profile image

      Sherrie 3 weeks ago

      In light of your discoveries with eye color how will this affect the way you look at & study sickle - cell is there a link ?

    • anatomynotes profile image

      Edmund Custers 3 weeks ago

      Sherrie, thank you for the interesting comment. There are several reports showing that sickle cell disease can affect the eye in different ways. It can lead to the accumulation of bilirubin - a pigment the causes the yellowing of the skin and the white of the eye. Sickle cell is believed to also affect the blood vessels/blood flow in the eye (causing 'red eye') and I think this can be an important factor when looking at a potential relationship between eye color and sickle cell.

    • profile image 10 days ago

      I have little girl 10 month old have a nice blue eyes both parents have black eyes. I'm from Ghana Africa

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