Condoleezza Rice was born on November 14, 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, United States. The only child of Angelena (Ray) Rice, a high school science, music, and oratory teacher, and John Wesley Rice, Jr., a high school guidance counselor, Presbyterian minister and dean of students at Stillman College, a historically black college in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Rice grew up in the Titusville neighborhood of Birmingham, and then Tuscaloosa, Alabama, at a time when the South was racially segregated.
Her name, Condoleezza, derives from the music-related term con dolcezza, which in Italian means, "with sweetness". Rice has roots in the American South going back to the pre-Civil War era, and some of her ancestors worked as sharecroppers for a time after emancipation. Rice discovered on the PBS series Finding Your Roots that she is of 51% African, 40% European, and 9% Asian or Native American genetic descent, while her mtDNA is traced back to the Tikar people of Cameroon.