Huge Number of the Nation’s Political Leaders Have Director 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.”

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