Five of the six living US presidents are direct descendants of slaveholders, according to an investigation by Reuters published on Tuesday.
The comprehensive study, released just days after the country celebrated the ‘Juneteenth’ federal holiday on June 19, which commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves, details that Donald Trump is the only living current or former US head of state not to have familial links to slavery.
The ancestors of current President Joe Biden, as well as Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, are all descended from slaveholders, the report states. Obama’s links to slavery are on his mother’s side of his family, according to the study, which examined the extended genealogies and census data of those who occupy Washington’s halls of power.
Census records indicate that Biden’s great-great-great grandfather was in possession of an enslaved 14-year-old boy in 1850, according to the report. The White House did not comment on Biden’s purported ancestral links to slavery.
Trump’s ancestors emigrated to the US from Germany in 1885, Reuters says, two decades after slavery was abolished by the US Congress. The study also found that last year, 11 of the 50 governors of US states had similar links to slavery, as do two sitting US Supreme Court Justices – Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch.
Within the ranks of Congress, the report details that Republicans are around three times more likely to have ancestral links to slavery. Of the GOP contingent, 28% have such ties, compared to 8% of Democrats – figures that reflect Republican backing in the South, which, by the time of the US Civil War in the 1860s, had a far higher concentration of support for the slave trade compared to the North.
The research also shows that the ancestors of US lawmakers were among the wealthiest people in the country at the time, with three-quarters being considered to be in the richest 10% of Americans in advance of the abolition of slavery.
Polling data conducted by Reuters/Ipsos in conjunction with the report saw 23% of respondents indicate that a political candidate’s ancestral ties to slavery could influence their voting patterns. Democrats are more likely not to vote for such a candidate compared to Republicans, the data indicates.