A genealogical study carried out by Reuters found that every living president except Donald Trump is directly descended from slaveholders.
Reuters set out to examine the genealogical histories of America’s political elite, “many of whom have staked key positions on policies related to race.” Through their research, the investigators found that every living U.S. president — a group that comprises Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden — is directly descended from slaveholders, except Donald Trump, whose ancestors came to America after slavery was abolished.
Obama is directly descended from slaveholders on his mother’s side, the investigators found.
The investigative team traced the lineages of America’s elite by analyzing census records, tax documents, slave records, estate records and family Bibles, as well as birth and death certificates. Their findings were then vetted by board-certified genealogists.
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 27, 2023
In addition to U.S. presidents, investigators found that among the 536 sitting members of the last Congress, 100 were descended from slaveholders, including Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton and James Lankford, and Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Duckworth, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan.
On the state level, Reuters researchers found that in 2022, 11 of the 50 state governors were also directly descended from slaveholders.
Henry Louis Gates Jr, a professor at Harvard University who focuses on African and African American research and hosts the popular television genealogy show Finding Your Roots on PBS, stressed that the findings were not intended to cast blame, but rather to showcase how closely the nation is still linked to the institution of slavery.
“We do not inherit guilt for our ancestors’ actions,” Gates said, arguing this was instead a “learning opportunity for each individual.
“It is also a learning opportunity for their constituency … and for the American people as a whole,” he added.
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