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More Than 100 U.S. Leaders — Lawmakers, Presidents, Governors and Justices — Have Slaveholding Ancestors, a Reuters Examination Found

27 Jun 2023 8:18 AM | Anonymous

As U.S. lawmakers commemorated the end of slavery by celebrating Juneteenth this month, many of them could have looked no further than their own family histories to find a more personal connection to what’s often called America’s “original sin.” 

In researching the genealogies of America’s political elite, a Reuters examination found that a fifth of the nation’s congressmen, living presidents, Supreme Court justices and governors are direct descendants of ancestors who enslaved Black people.

Among 536 members of the last sitting Congress, for example, Reuters determined at least 100 descend from slaveholders. Of that group, more than a quarter of the Senate — 28 members — can trace their families to at least one slaveholder.

Among those lawmakers from the 117th Congress are Democrats and Republicans alike. They include some of the most influential politicians in America: Republican senators Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton, and Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth and Jeanne Shaheen.

In addition, Reuters determined that 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. Two of the nine sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices — Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch — also have direct ancestors who enslaved people.

In 2022, 11 of the 50 U.S. states also had governors who are descendants of slaveholders, Reuters found. They include eight chief executives of the 11 states that formed the Confederate States of America, which seceded and waged war to preserve slavery. Two are seeking the Republican nomination for president: Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, and Doug Burgum of North Dakota.

Reuters found that at least 8% of Democrats in the last Congress and 28% of Republicans have such ancestors. 

You can read more in an article in the NBC News web site at:

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