Huge Number of the Nation’s Political Leaders Have Direct Ancestors Who Enslaved People

New research by Reuters has found that of the 536 members of the current U.S. Congress, at least 100 have ancestors who had ties to the institution of slavery. More than one quarter of all U.S. Senators have an ancestor who enslaved at least one person. The research focused on direct lineal descendants rather than distant cousins.

Republicans and Democrats alike have slave-owning ancestors including Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, Jeanne Shaheen. and Maggie Hassan.

Every living U.S. president except Donald Trump has an ancestor with ties to slavery. This includes Barack Obama, who has ties to slavery on his mother’s side.

Two justices of the U.S. Supreme Court – Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch (both appointed by Donald Trump) – have ancestors who enslaved people. Also, 11 of the nation’s 50 governors had ancestors who were involved with slavery.

Commenting on the research in an NBC News interview, Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and host of the popular television genealogy show Finding Your Roots on PBS, said “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.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Higher Education Gifts or Grants of Interest to African Americans

Here is this week’s news of grants or gifts to historically Black colleges and universities or for programs of particular interest to African Americans in higher education.

Three African Americans Appointed to Leadership Positions in Diversity

The three African Americans appointed to diversity positions are Melanie Duckworth at the University of Nevada Reno, Doug Thompson at the University of Notre Dame, and Anthony Jones at Centre College in Kentucky.

Tuajuanda Jordan to Retire From the Presidency of St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Dr. Jordan has led St. Mary's College of Maryland for the past 10 years. She has previously held faculty and leadership positions with Xavier University of Louisiana, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Lewis & Clark College.

The White House Releases Report on “The Economics of HBCUs”

The report found that although HBCUs account for less than 3 percent of all higher education institutions in the United States, they have 8 percent of all Black undergraduate student enrollments and produce 13 percent of all bachelor's degrees earned by Black students.

Featured Jobs