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NEW REPORT: More than 100 U.S. politicians have ancestral ties to slavery

by Candace McDuffie —

A Reuters investigation published Tuesday revealed that numerous U.S. leaders – those who are influential in policies related to race – have ancestral ties to slavery.

More specifically, it named the politicians who directly descend from slaveholders.

The piece discovered that a fifth of United States congressmen, Supreme Court justices, governors and living presidents are direct descendants of ancestors who kept Black people as slaves. In addition, 28 members of the last Senate can trace their families to at least one slaveholder.

President Joe Biden and every living former U.S. president (with the exception of Donald Trump) are also direct descendants of slaveholders. (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

This includes Republicans Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham. The same is true of Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Maggie Hassan and Tammy Duckworth. Also, President Joe Biden and every living former U.S. president (with the exception of Donald Trump) are also direct descendants of slaveholders.

The ancestors of Trump came to America after slavery was abolished. George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (through his mother’s white side) are also descendants of slaveholders.

Amy Coney Barrett is one of the two current U.S. Supreme Court justices with ancestors who enslaved people. The other is Neil Gorsuch. (US Supreme Court official portrait)

Two of the nine current U.S. Supreme Court justices – Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett – also have direct ancestors who enslaved people.

Reuters also found that in 2022, 11 of the 50 United States governors were descendants of slaveholders. This total includes eight chief executives of the 11 states that were known as the Confederate States of America. Two of whom are going after the Republican nomination for president: Asa Hutchinson (former Arkansas governor) and Doug Burgum (North Dakota governor).

Henry Louis Gates Jr. speaks on a panel about race in America on the Understanding Our World Stage at the National Book Festival, August 31, 2019. (Photo: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.)

Founder of The Root, Henry Louis Gates Jr., explained the significance of this information. The host of PBS’ “Finding Your Roots” stated that the report is “not another chapter in the blame game. We do not inherit guilt for our ancestors’ actions.”

He added: “It’s just to say: Look at how closely linked we are to the institution of slavery, and how it informed the lives of the ancestors of people who represent us in the United States Congress today. This is a learning opportunity for each individual. It is also a learning opportunity for their constituency … and for the American people as a whole.”

Journalists for Reuters reviewed U.S. Census records, tax documents, newspaper accounts, estate records and birth and death certificates. The research was then examined by board-certified genealogists. The Reuters research was then vetted by board-certified genealogists to trace the politicians and their ancestors’ ties to slavery.


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