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The Origin of Black People With Blue Eyes

Edmund has spent the last ten years working in clinical research. He has written many articles on human anatomy and physiology.

black-people-with-blue-eyes

People pay very little attention to common eye colors, which explains why I get little to no compliments on my big brown eyes. We tend to be captivated by rare traits or unusual combinations, such as black people with blue eyes. This article will cover the origins of black people with blue eyes, and will list some examples of well-known black celebrities with blue eyes.

Can You Be Black and Have Blue Eyes?

Yes, you can be black and have blue eyes.

Still, blue eyes are very uncommon among black people, especially those with no Caucasian ancestry. Research has found that almost everyone with blue eyes is linked to an ancient genetic mutation, and a small fraction get their blue eye color as a result of a health condition such as ocular albinism, which affects the pigmentation in the eye.

What Is the Origin of Black People With Blue Eyes?

In short, the origin of black people with blue eyes is no different than the origin of any human's eye color, the deciding factor being genetics.

Research argues that, at one point in time far in the past, everyone on the planet had brown eyes. The first light-eyed human emerged only about 10,000 years ago, says Professor Hans Eiberg and his team of Danish scientists from the University of Copenhagen.

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

They were able to conclude that all blue-eyed people have the exact same DNA sequence to account for their blue eyes. They also found that this DNA sequence contains an ancient genetic mutation which presumably occurred 10,000 years ago around South-Eastern Europe. In other words, blue-eyed celebrities Matt Damon and Elijah Wood are your distant cousins if you have blue eyes. Everyone with blue eyes is related in a distant way.

Black people are affected by this genetic mutation in the same way any other human is, but because the mutation originated in Europe, it is rare to see a black baby born with blue eyes. We will explore this concept more in the sections below.

Another, but less common, reason why a black baby may be born with blue eyes is if it has ocular albinism or waardenburg syndrome.

People with blue eyes are affected by a genetic mutation that turns off their ability to produce brown eyes.

People with blue eyes are affected by a genetic mutation that turns off their ability to produce brown eyes.

Where Did the Blue Eye Mutation Come From?

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.

"Originally, we all had brown eyes," says Professor Hans Eiberg from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. "But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a switch, which literally turned off the ability to produce brown eyes."

The mutation can be compared to an error in the recipe to create brown eyes, in which the amount of melanin is altered. The result is very little melanin production in the iris of the eyes, and the low melanin concentration, being insufficient to produce brown eyes, produces blue eyes2.

For 10,000 years, the blue-eye gene has been passed on from parents to offspring and has spread to different geographical regions. A descendant often has blue eyes if he or she inherited the right set of genes from both parents, and it is believed that almost every blue-eyed person on earth today inherited the same mutation from the same source.

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

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 Most Blue-Eyed People of European Descent?

Almost everyone in Africa and Asia has brown eyes. In fact, brown eyes are the most commonly occurring eye color in the world. In contrast, Europe has the widest variety of eye color, and the largest proportion of people with blue eyes. In fact, over 80 percent of the inhabitants of Estonia and Finland have blue eyes.

But why are there so many blue-eyed people in Europe?

The first thing to consider is that Europe was the epicenter of the blue-eye gene mutation. This might be one of the most important factors to explain the high proportion of blue eyes on the continent.

Another important hypothesis is partner selection. The gist of this concept is that individuals were much more choosy 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, and explains the difference in eye color diversity in Europe versus the rest of the world. Both hypotheses explain why the proportion of black people with blue eyes may be the smallest.

Color chart depicting the odds that your child will receive blue, green or brown eyes.

Color chart depicting the odds that your child will receive blue, green or brown eyes.

Can Blue Eyes Skip a Generation?

Yes. Not only can blue eyes skip a generation, they can skip multiple generations.

If blue eyes are already in the family, there is no guarantee that a parent will pass them on to their child. Blue-eyed parents can give birth to brown or hazel eyed offspring, with the blue eye mutation lying dormant within the child's genetic make-up. It's hard to predict when the mutation will appear again.

What Is the Rarest Eye Color?

Whether you're black or not, the rarest eye color in the world is green. It is estimated that only about two percent of the world's population has green eyes.

As for blue eyes, it is estimated that about eight percent of the world's population has them. While green eyes consist of a mild amount of pigmentation with hints of gold, blue eyes are formed by the absence of pigment in the iris.

Why Do Some People Have Yellow Eyes?

When people refer to yellow eyes, they are speaking of the whites of one's eyes (called the scelera), rather than the iris.

Whether a person is black or not, the whites of their eyes can turn yellowish for a number of reasons. These include:

  • Jaundice – The most common cause of yellowish eyes. Jaundice can also turn the skin yellow, and usually indicates a serious problem with the liver, gallbladder or pancreas.
  • Hepatitis – An inflammatory condition of the liver, and can cause yellowish eyes.
  • Biliary Duct Obstruction – Blocked bile ducts can cause the whites of one's eyes to yellow.
  • Alcohol-Related Liver Disease – Yellowing of the eyes can be caused by damage to the liver caused by heavy drinking.
  • Cirrhosis – Severe scarring and poor function of the liver due to damage by alcohol or viral infections.
  • Gallstones – These can block the bile duct and cause yellowing of the eyes.
  • Thalassemia – A blood disorder that causes the body to create an abnormal form of hemoglobin.
  • G6PD Deficiency – A genetic condition caused by a lack of the G6PD enzyme in the blood.
  • Acute Pancreatitis – Inflammation of the pancreas.

Can Black People's Eyes Change Color?

The color of a person's eyes can change, whether they are black or not.

In fact, Caucasians are more likely to inherit eyes that change color, since they generally have lighter eyes.

Changes in eye color are caused by the expanding and contracting of the iris, the colored part of the eye. When the iris is contracted, the pigments are compressed, making the color appear darker. When the iris is expanded, the pigments are spread apart, making the color appear lighter.

Since the color of one's eyes can change according to the size of their pupil, eyes usually change color depending on the amount of light entering the eye. Eyes can also change color according to one's emotion. When one feels relaxed or happy, the iris expands. When one feels angry or tense, the iris contracts.

Celebrities With Blue Eyes

Below is a list of well-known black people with blue eyes. Check them out to see just how beautiful this rare combination can be.

  • Michael Ealy
  • Stephan Belfonte
  • Chris Williams
  • Vanessa Williams
  • Denise Vasi
  • Jesse Williams

More Black People With Blue Eyes

© 2016 Edmund Custers

Comments

Shenna on August 14, 2020:

Is called the e Eve Gene Google the Eve Gene that talks about mutated DNA and how everything came to

Charles Ayara on August 08, 2020:

Thank you for the very interesting and enlightening article. Brown and blue eyes, I knew, but never knew people could also have green eyes. And many thanks to Dr Pamela Irabor for forwarding the article to my page to satisfy my curiosity.

Cecilia on July 04, 2020:

What I want to know is can a black person with blue eyes be called an albino?

Yumnam Linthoisana on April 26, 2020:

In my culture, it's extremely rare for babies to be born with light-coloured eyes. The standard for beautiful eye colour is "eyes as dark as the night". Light-coloured eyes are considered unattractive, blue eyes being considered the most unattractive. So even if a few individuals are born with light-coloured eyes due to sporadic genetic mutations, they have a much lower chance of being chosen by potential partners and passing on their genes.

George on February 21, 2020:

Being African American male possessing dark brown eyes and not knowing why my mother had red hair, freckles and hazel colored eyes? All of which she hated and was teased relentlessly as a child. Her mother was light complexioned with hazel eyes who had a blue eyed brother a hazel colored sister and a green eyed sister. My genealogy is all over the place. I'd like to know what happened and why?

Hadija kagimu on January 06, 2020:

But in Africa we don't consider being with blue eyes a beuty we consider big ones not the colour

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on December 29, 2019:

Very interesting article. Today the "experts" are saying that all of us blue-eyed people descended from one common female ancestor in the past. As a child my eyes were a turquoise blue like both my parents, but for awhile my eyes turned green. After my thyroid was removed, the color turned back to blue, this time almost navy blue. We are of Celtic and French-Germanic ancestry with a little Mediterranean thrown in as shown by a DNA test. No trace of the Choctaw or Cherokee that family rumor said we were supposed to have.

I have met two people in my lifetime who had yellow irises, not amber, but yellow. They were not connected to each other in any manner and lived in different states.

Lee on December 26, 2019:

My father is one of 14 children, and he, two aunts, one uncle, and my grandmother (now deceased), all were born with blue eyes. His other siblings born with brown eyes. I was born with brown eyes. We are Black Americans. Of my three kids, the two oldest were born with blues, the youngest with brown eyes, however, my wife is of German-Irish ancestry, with her grandmother having blue eyes. My two oldest kids could have inherited from either side of our families.

Edmund Custers (author) on December 21, 2019:

Hi Tristan, I am glad you found the article interesting.

Recent studies have shown that a person's eye color is determined by several genes. So it is not determined by a single gene as people used to think. So based on the new model involving multiple genes, the inheritance pattern is much more complex than what you describe. So the eye color(s) of the parents can be used to predict a child's eye color. However, gene variations can produce unexpected outcomes.

Thank you all for the comments.

Tristan Lindebjerg Johansen on December 19, 2019:

Very interesting article. I do though believe your colour chart is completely wrong. Take brown (B) + blue (b): If one parent has BB and the other one bb (both homozygous) there is roughly 0% chance of getting a blue eyed baby as a result of anything else than a mutation. The other case: Bb and bb (brown, heterozygous. Blue, homozygous) there is a 25% chance of getting a blue eyed kid. Ultimately this means that given the phenotypes of the parents, there is roughly 12.5% of getting a blue eyed baby.

There will though be a 100% chance for the kid to be able to produce a blue eyed baby, when it comes to that :)

Karen on October 16, 2019:

I have blue eyes. My mom had blue eyes, aunt and cousin have blue eyes. My grandfather had blue eyes. My son has one blue one brown eye and his daughters/my granddaughter has blue eyes. Five generations straight that I know of. All African Americans

Camilla on October 13, 2019:

I have blue eyes, my mother has gray eyes my father had brown eyes. Yes they aremy biological parents. I have 4 children with brown eyes as did my husband. I have 4 grandkids all with brown eyes. But I have cousins with blue, gray, green, amber and hazel eyes.

Sid on October 11, 2019:

My grandpa had light green eyes and my grandma had black

They had seven children among which my uncle only has the green one

Others all have brown

Curtis on October 09, 2019:

My mother has blue eyes. Along with my aunt and my nephew has one brown eye one blue. For this to be rare it's pretty common it would seem in my family

but alot of these young girls on you tube on June 18, 2019:

mary johnson but allot of these young girls on you tube that are black with blue eyes say there eyes are real but just like there fake hair tutorials there eyes are not blue but blue contacts instead

Asya on June 08, 2019:

Also my moms mom has green eyes and my moms dad has dark blue. She and her suster (my aunt) have brown eyes. How is it possible if here it writes that green and blue cannot make a brown eyed baby, when my grandparents made 2?

Asya on June 08, 2019:

But my mom has brown eyes and my dad has blue yeyes. How come i has born with green?

Maya Freeman on May 29, 2019:

I've always thought that it is very rare for a brown skinned person to have blue eyes. But, is it possible for a person's eye clor to change slightly in between seasons? I have a friend who's eyes seem to appear to be a different shade each season.

Silvia on May 02, 2019:

I also noticed the chart that says brown and blue eyed persons can’t produce a green eyed child. I remember learning this in biology class as well. However, my mothers eyes are as blue as they get (with no hint of green really) and my dad has dark brown eyes. My dad is absolutely my biological father. No doubt. I happen to have green eyes -really green eyes, although there is a hint of yellow around my iris, there is no blue or brown.

Donna S on April 05, 2019:

Hi, i noticed on the chart that the brown eyed and blue eyed set of parents seem to not be able to produce a green eyed child. My brown eyed niece and her blue eyed partner produced a beautiful boy with eyes that change from teal blue to light blue to green and at times gray, at times within minutes . My nieces father has blue eyes, her mom has brown eyes. Her blue eyed partners mom had green eyes. His father may have had green or a hazel greenish eyes. His brother has greenish eyes. I guess there are not definite genetic laws that dictate who gets what eye color. Genetically there is a blend of Sicilian and Italian plus German and Irish and who knows what else running through everyones DNA. I also had a brown eyed Italian descent friend and her Turkish dark brown eyed hubby who had a beautiful lavender eyed baby boy. His eyes later turned to green then to brown. Turkish grandfather had unusual bluish eyes.

jo on January 07, 2019:

Ra....people marvel over blue eyes because they are rare and beautiful. Thants not saying that other colored eyes are not beautiful because they are.....they are just not as rare except for green eye,,,,,being recessive only explains how rare the trait is, it does not make the trait bad.

Ra on January 01, 2019:

So sad how people marvel over blue eyes without noticing its a recessive trait.

A dude on November 25, 2018:

Yeah, the thing with black people and yellpw eyes is usually just due to the amount of melanin they produce, not health conditions. A lot of African born people have yellow scaleras, even me, but some are just a lot lighter and not very noticible or are only in certain parts of the scalera.

Ellen on October 30, 2018:

I'm another one - brown-eyed mother and (very) blue-eyed father, and my eyes are green. Mother's father had gray eyes. Since I look like my father and his whole family, I don't doubt parentage. :)

Teresa kane on October 22, 2018:

They say if one parent has blue and one has brown their child cant have green eyes thats not true because Im livivng proof my bio mom had brown eyes and my bio father has blu eyes and I have green eyes me and my two kids are the only one has green eyes in four generation of our family I dont under stand why

Brandon on October 21, 2018:

Everyone is amazed that my eyes are dark blue. You really notice when I wear blue shirts. I am the only one in my family like this.

Aura on August 12, 2018:

my dad is the only person in the whole family with blue eyes

Ian on June 22, 2018:

Also, maybe there was also something about climate/environment of European countries that caused the mutation to occur more frequently.

Somebody on May 21, 2018:

My whole family have blue eyes, I feel lucky.

Anon on May 13, 2018:

Not all black people are African American.

Asia on April 09, 2018:

why did you have to use black people why couldnt you use African american

Anonymous on April 03, 2018:

False propoganda? And where is your proof, Aly?

Aly Julmiste on March 29, 2018:

To my understanding, blacks with blue eyes and blond hair were the oldest of human kind. There was a tribe in south africa that research has shown that they were the first original humans and they were with blonde hair and blue eye. You are making this highly wrong hypothesis that blue eyes came originated from Europeans and some other predominantly white countries. Stop spreading this false propoganda. The truth is every single ethnic group came from the black. That has been a proven fact. At some point some of these blacks started moving to different parts of the world millions of years ago; including some of those that were in the tribe of south Africa that had the blue eyes and blonde hair. The ones with the blonde hair and blue eyes all moved to the European regions and the other blacks moved to diffrrent parts of the world. These blacks that moved from Africa after so many years, evolution started taking place. Their skin color and hair structure started to change due to weather and different climates their bodies weren't use to. After millions of years that became the result of all these different races. Even though the blacks with the blue eyes and blonde hair did have their skin color changed to white and changed their hair texture due to evolution, the two characteristics that did not changed were their blonde hair and blue eyes. What that means is whites with blond hair and blue eyes are descendants of that tribe in south Africa that had the blue eyes and blond hair. Every nation started off with their ancestors being of black people being their original. This has been proven time and time again by some of the greatest genealogists. Don't be one of those that hate to admit that blacks are the originals. And then try to convince people and alternative theory just so you can undermined that blacks are the originals.

idiots on February 24, 2018:

Wow. The comments here show that it's actually INTELLIGENCE that's rare- not blue eyes.

Eliza Fleming on January 29, 2018:

Mwindo it doesnt matter if they were not fully black

Mwindo on January 20, 2018:

Those american actors you mentioned are not fully black, so them having blue eyes can be easily explained.

Mary Love on December 11, 2017:

So I'm a genetic mutation? I am African American and I have blue eyes. You can see it when sunlight or bright lights shine in my face. I was unaware of this growing up and only found out after I became a teenager. What is the problem? Where did I get blue eyes from? My parents eyes were brown. Why are mine blue?? Any answers?

Maggie on November 30, 2017:

Everywhere I go I meet black people with blue eyes or blonde hair, blond lashes and eyebrows blonde skin hair and blue eyes or green eyes. Black people and white people get married and or have children together and pass on these genetic traits that turn up immediately or somewhere down the line of future generations who may not know there is white blood in their DNA. None that I have know ever had a disease causing blue eyes as if something must be wrong with that person or its a mutation of some sort.

Giwreh on November 14, 2017:

Hello. In the article, you use the expression : "... there are quite a few black people with blue eyes..."

However I wonder what quite a few means. Rather : "extreme rare" ?? I get the impression from daily life that if I assume 0,01% got them, I'm still exagerating ? :-)

Cheers

CubanFlowers on October 29, 2017:

to Drummond.D

sweetie.. hi.................and what makes you think.. that baby needs adopting??? because he. is poor person????? that means he has no parents.. and if he does have parents.. they will just give to you their baby.. because they are 'poor'??????.... be blessed

Kevin on September 04, 2017:

Some of the photos in your article look like genetic manipulation. Someone must have changed these eyes on purpose, like mine in 1988.

Susan on August 28, 2017:

Here is another interesting bit of research on blue eyed ancestors... predating the Baltic Sea area, if I have it right: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/14...

Edmund Custers (author) on August 25, 2017:

Hey Jojoblueeyes, thank you for posting such an interesting comment. I am glad you enjoy reading this article. I must say, I enjoyed reading your comment. This is the first time I have come across this theory—that if only the father has blue eyes the child has a higher probability of having blue eyes than if only the mother has blue eyes. Personally, I think is it highly unlikely. While there may be little to no data today, to provide an answer to this question, let us keep it open for further discussion. Cheers!

Jojoblueeyes on August 25, 2017:

Just wanted to start off by saying thank you for this insightful article. It was very informative, well put together, easy to read and understand, and very interesting. I am a young Mexican American woman with European ancestry. My eyes are an auburn color, and my son's dad's eyes are a pale blue. My 4 year old son has greenish blue eyes but they are more blue than green. They also have specs of my eye color in them which is pretty amazing. Most of the time they look more on the blue side but other times they appear to be more on the green side, and sometimes even look almost like a hazel. Have you ever dropped food coloring of different colors into water and watch it expand outward together, but not exactly mixing? That is how I would describe my son's eyes. Before I gave birth to my son, I always wondered what color his eyes would be because his father's eyes are blue. I was told by a few people that if the father has blue eyes, the baby had a higher chance of inheriting his eye color more so than if the mother has blue eyes. I'm not exactly sure how true this is because my husband (son's step father) has blue eyes but his son has dark brown eyes like his mother, and my brother in law also has blue eyes but his son has dark brown eyes like HIS mother. Not exactly sure if my son has blue eyes because his father has blue eyes, or because both his father and I somehow carry the blue eye gene, or if it just happened on random. Anyways, if you are reading this, what do you think?

Drummond.D on August 17, 2017:

I heard what beautiful eyes on the little baby boy, no one is looking at how poor he is can I help like adopt him does any one knows who took the pick or any info

itsagoodsign@juno.com on July 08, 2017:

I am Native American Indian/Caucasion. My mom had dark brown hair and brown eyes.

My dad had dark brown hair and hazel eyes. I have medium brown hair and figuring hazel eyes. My grandpas full brother had bright blue eyes, other than me and him everyone else has brown eyes even distant cousins. My eyes are grayish-green in normal light, emerald green in sunlight straight on and amber in sunlight from the side view, I am assuming that means hazel. My 3 year olds eyes seem to be exactly the same as mine. Her daddy has dark blue eyes. If we have another kid I am wondering what color the eyes will be genetically speaking.

Coming from an almost entirely brown eyes family I am surprised mine are not brown.

Cee on June 07, 2017:

Hi, I'm black but I have hazel eyes and my mum and dad have dark brown eyes . I'm from Nigeria . Two of my siblings have light brown eyes too

melanated woman on June 05, 2017:

Blue eyes is a recessive mutation, weather it's in European or in Africa and most likely it originated in Africa. Sickle cell protects Africans against malaria it only becomes a problem when they move from the area that have no malaria. Some white people with brown eyes have sickle cell. The solution will be to infect sickle cell carrying people with malaria.

Dunnyboy on April 30, 2017:

my parents are black with brown eyes...was born with blue eyes and im told its some wardensberg syndrome which honestly speaking...I dont think it prevents me from seeing...i see just normal..no problem with my eyes

Amanda Whittaker on April 28, 2017:

Beautiful beautiful beautiful baby blue sapphire eyes on a beautiful brown baby boy! So so stunning and great

Sethamosah66@gmail.com on March 16, 2017:

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

Edmund Custers (author) on March 03, 2017:

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.

Sherrie on March 03, 2017:

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

Savage on January 21, 2017:

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

Rodrigo Sebidos from Zone2 Brgy.Guadalupe, Baybay City, Leyte, Philippines on September 23, 2016:

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)

Edmund Custers (author) on September 20, 2016:

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.

Cee-Jay Aurinko from Cape Town, South Africa on September 20, 2016:

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.

Glen Rix from UK on September 19, 2016:

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.

frumpleton on September 19, 2016:

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.

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