Friday, March 02, 2007

Obama, McCain, Edwards - Genealogy, Politics and Slavery

Another story about genealogy, modern politics and American slavery from the Baltimore Sun:

WASHINGTON // Many people know that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas.But an intriguing sliver of his family history has received almost no attention until now: It appears that forebears of his white mother owned slaves, according to genealogical research and census records.

...According to the research, one of Obama's great-great-great-great grandfathers, George Washington Overall, owned two slaves who were recorded in the 1850 census in Nelson County, Ky. The same records show that one of Obama's great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers, Mary Duvall, also owned two slaves.

... An Obama spokesman did not dispute the information and said that the senator's ancestors "are representative of America.""While a relative owned slaves, another fought for the Union in the Civil War," campaign spokesman Bill Burton said last night. "And it is a true measure of progress that the descendant of a slave owner would come to marry a student from Kenya and produce a son who would grow up to be a candidate for president of the United States."

... Reitwiesner's research identifies two other presidential candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Democratic Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, as descendants of slave owners. Three of McCain's great-great-grandfathers in Mississippi owned slaves, including one who owned 52 in 1860. Two ancestors of Edwards owned one slave each in Georgia in 1860.

With this story following last week's Sharpton-Thurmond genealogy exposé so closely, one might be inclined wonder whether we are seeing the beginnings of an organized smear campaign here. Stay tuned.

-Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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