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.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Three African Americans Appointed to New Academic Positions

Leon Prieto, Kofi Afrifah, and Andrea Moore have been appointed to new academic positions at Clayton University, Bowie State University, and Savannah State University, respectively.

Historic HBCU Landmark Revitalized Through National Park Service Grant

Through three restoration grants totaling $2 million, the Rosenwald Practice School and Principal House will be fully restored, becoming the new home for the Northeastern North Carolina African American Research and Cultural Heritage Institute.

Five Black Leaders Appointed to Administrative Positions

Here is this week’s roundup of African American who have been appointed to new administrative positions at colleges and universities throughout the United States. If you have news for our appointments section, please email the information to

North Carolina A&T University Establishes Research Partnership with Collins Aerospace

“There are direct relations to the research we do in the College of Engineering and the mission purpose of Collins Aerospace,” said Stephanie Luster-Teasley, interim dean of the College of Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University. “Being able to partner with Collins really gives our students the opportunities for hands-on research at each level – undergraduate and graduate.”

Featured Jobs