Reuters have released a new report which shows the extent to which America’s top elites are related (through ancestors) to the practise of enslaving black people. The report also found that there are more than 100 such US political leaders including Presidents, Judges, Governors and legislators who had slave owning ancestors.
“They include some of the most influential politicians in America: Republican senators Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and James Lankford, and Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.
In addition, President Joe Biden and every living former U.S. president – except Donald Trump – are direct descendants of slaveholders: Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and – through his white mother’s side – Barack Obama. Trump’s ancestors came to America after slavery was abolished” says the Reuters report. Reuters found that at least 8% of Democrats in the last Congress and 28% of Republicans have such ancestors.
Two out of nine Supreme Court judges: Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch along with governors of 11 states out of the 50 states in the US also have ancestors with ties to owning black slaves. Notably, out of those 11 states, 8 were originally the part of the Confederate States of America which seceded and waged war to preserve slavery.
While slavery did exist in the Northern states by the time the civil war started, slavery was almost completely a Southern enterprise. This war between the Southern states to preserve slavery and Northern states to abolish slavery was called the American civil war. By June 1865, the civil war was over and the Union (Northern states) had defeated the Confederacy (Southern states) and abolished slavery across the US through the Emancipation proclamation which was issued in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. This freed almost 4 million slaves from the control of slave owners and further also resulted in the rebuilding of Southern confederate states after all the destruction and them joining the United States again.
While this report only focuses on the enslavement by political leaders, it is believed that there would be millions of Americans whose ancestors were tied to enslavement of black people.
Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr said that identifying those familial connections to slaveholders is “not another chapter in the blame game. We do not inherit guilt for our ancestors’ actions.”
“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,” Gates said. “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.”