Former President Donald John Trump, a 2024 Republican candidate for the White House, is the only living president who does not descend from slave owners according to a study by Reuters. Reuters explored the genealogies of America’s political elite from legislators to governors to Supreme Court judges. They 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.”
The report made mention that the current president, Joe Biden, and almost all former living presidents had ancestors who owned black slaves. Donald Trump was the exemption to this trend because his “ancestors came to America after slavery was abolished.” Trump has German roots. Even before the Civil War, as a result of the failed 1848 revolution in Germany, many German liberals fled to the United States in search of liberty and opportunity. These communities of German ex-pats had a number of significant individuals who worked to abolish the practice of slavery in the United States. Some of whom, like Carl Schurz, would become prominent politicos in the Republican party.
Nowadays according to Reuters due to the concentration of political party strength, they found that “at least 8% of Democrats in the last Congress and 28% of Republicans have such [slaver] ancestors.” The Republican party being in modern times more dominant in the South would logically have a larger pool of such ancestry since slavery by the 19th century in the United States had become an exclusively Southern enterprise.
However, ancestry alone does not implicate a person in the sins of their father (or mother as it may turn out). As Henry Louis Gates Jr., a Harvard professor, sagely observed “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.”
Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC) released a statement after being named by the report as being a descendant of a slave owner. She stated that “I don’t recognize these people named and can’t confirm they are relatives, but slavery was a stain on this country and we as Americans should be grateful for the progress we’ve made since the 1860s.”
Of particular note, it was the Republican party that led the way in the abolition of slavery and it was that party that passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution that effectively ended the practice and extended rights to the newly freed black population. A higher percentage of Republican party members also voted than Democrats did for the 1964 Civil Rights Act that ended racial segregation in public places.