Over 100 of the most prominent leaders in the United States are descended from ancestors who enslaved Black people.
According to an investigation from Reuters, among the the 117th session of Congress, five living presidents, two Supreme Court justices, 11 governors, and over 100 legislators are descended from slave-owners – one-fifth of the nation's congressmen, and over a quarter of the Senate.
President Joe Biden and every living former president – except Donald Trump – are direct descendants of slaveholders. This includes Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, with the report noting that Obama is related through his white mother.
Among the nine Supreme Court justices, two are descended from slaveowners – Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch.
Of the 11 governors descended from slaveowners, eight are among the 11 states that formed the Confederate States of America. In South Carolina, where the Civil War began, each of the nine lawmakers that were members of the 117th session of Congress is linked to slavery, including the two Black members – Tim Scott and James Clyburn – who have ancestors that were enslaved.
While the ancestry trend transcends party lines, there are still a notable amount of Republicans with such links – 28 percent compared to 8 percent of Democrats. The report states that this "illustrates the familial ties between the American political elite and the nation’s history of slavery," particularly in the South.
Henry Louis Gates Jr, professor at Harvard University host of the show genealogy-focused show Finding Your Roots, noted that the report is “not another chapter in the blame game. We do not inherit guilt for our ancestors’ actions.”
“It’s just to say: 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,” he told Reuters. “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.”