From Tainted Past to Total Recall

Once it was shown that an ancestor of Al Sharpton was once owned by Strom Thurmond’s grandfather’s cousin, the floodgates have been opened. Politicians are now being scutinised by whether they have any ancestors who owned slaves.

The latest victim of genealogical criticism is none other than Barak Obama. It appears that the man who would be the first black President has ancestors that owned slaves. It wasn’t his black ancestors that have been traced, though virtually every slave that was ever owned in the US was either originally owned by a black person or was the descendant of someone who was. No, since Obama is proof that you are only as black as you feel, it was two of his white ancestors, a great-great-great-great-grandfather and a great-great-great-great-great-grandmother that are shown in the 1850 census as owning two slaves each.

So there – terrible truth has been dredged up. Obama has some Southern ancestors who weren’t poor. After all, as a general rule, lack of slaveholding was not a matter of principle but of poverty. People who could afford slaves had them. It was an inherent part of the economy.

And truth be told, Obama’s nothern white ancestors (one of who fought in the Union army) were probably, like St Abraham Lincoln, racists. For almost the entire ante-bellum era, abolitionism was by and large the view of a few Unitarians in New England. Even many of those didn’t mind if slaves were freed still didn’t consider them equals.

The same researcher who found out about Obama’s ancestors also discovered that John Edwards and John McCain are also both descended from slaveowners. I’ve been going to try to find out about Al Gore when I get the chance. In my family we don’t often publicise that one of my great-great-grandfathers fought in Gore’s Tennessee Cavalry, not wanting to be tainted any connection with the former Vice-President. However, if that Gore is a relative of Al, clearly this will have to be made known in case he decides to run for the Presidency.

The only presidential wannabe we can be sure had no slaveholder ancestors in the American South is Arnold Schwarzenegger and he isn’t eligible for the office. But then again, his father was a Nazi.


3 Responses to From Tainted Past to Total Recall

  1. the Grit says:

    Hi David,

    My ancestors fought on both sides of the war, except for that one who moved to Canada for the duration. One of my wife’s ancestors rode with Forrest.

    As to slave owners, it’s a little publicized fact, that there were hundreds of free blacks who owned slaves.

    As to Al Sharpton, I’m sure the owner of his ancestors was sorry for the purchase.

    the Grit

  2. blair says:

    It’s not surprising to learn Obama has slave owners in his family treed. Virtually all Americans, regardless of their race or ethnicity, have ancestors who owned slaves. Many African Americans who researched their family trees would be shocked to discover that have black as well as white ancestors who were slave owners. In the United States, free blacks as well as whites owned slaves (one of the South’s biggest slave owner was a freed black man notorious for his harsh treatment of his slaves). The percentage of free blacks who owned slaves was small, as was the percentages of whites who owned slaves, but the intricacies of the genetic pool guarantee that virtually everyone is related to them. African Americans who traced their heritage back to Africa would discover that virtually all their African ancestors were involved in the slave traded. The African tribes ran the “supply side” of the Atlantic slave trade. The ancestors of Hispanic Americans owned both black and Indian slaves. American Indian tribes practiced slavery both before and after the European discovery of America. The Cherokee Nation, for example, voted yesterday (3 March 07) to revoke the tribal citizenship of about 2,800 descendants of Cherokee slaves.

  3. Michael says:

    A man with Kenyan ancestry whose middle name is “Hussein” probably has deep roots in the African Arab slave trade as well.

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