Monday, March 5, 2007

Say It Ain't So, O!

Lost in the uproar over his religious roots and his middle name (Hussein), is perhaps the more interesting and controversial slave-owning legacy of Barack Obama's maternal side of the family.


Oh yes, I guess I just did, but it's not just me, the Baltimore Sun ran the initial article at,0,789030.story?coll=bal-home-headlines titled A New Twist to an Intriguing Family History.

And yazzem, it is all that. It seems the records were first noted by William Addams Reitwiesner, who works at the Library of Congress and does genealogy in his spare time.

Obama's Mama's Dirty Laundry

According to Reitwiesner one of Obama's great-great-great-great-grandfather's George Washington Overall owned two slaves, recorded in the 1850 census and that one of his great-great-great-great-grandmothers, a Mary Duvall also owned two slaves.

The Baltimore Sun claims to have retraced "much of Reitwiesner's work" and confirms that the records show that Overall, then 30 years old, owned a fifteen year old black female and a 25 year old black male, while Mary Duvall owned a 60 year old black man and a 58 year old black woman. A notation makes clear that slaves were listed by owner, age, sex and color, not by name in the 1850 census.

A Good Time Was Had By All

When contacted, an Obama spokesman did not dispute the information, saying only that the Senator's ancestors "are representative of America."

Do tell!

My father's ancestors came from Ireland just before the Civil War and went from the docks right into a war that was at least partly exacerbated by that particular issue.

My Mom's side of the family came here from Northern Italy just prior to the turn of the 20th Century. Barack Obama's ancestors aren't representative of my own, nor those of anyone I know.

I suppose Barack Obama could relate to black America in this way, "I know the roots of slavery personally, as they've touched my family too...well, no, we weren't actually ENSLAVED, but we sure did OWN a few."

The more I think of it, the easier I could see Barack Obama in Bill Murray's Stripes, with Murray as the de facto drill seargent bellowing, "What kind of black man are you?"

With Obama responding, "The slave-master bastard kind, I guess, SIR!"


Jill said...

So I guess this means that Mitt Romney's polygamist ancestors and Prescott Bush's dealings with the Nazis are now fair game, right? Or does the IOKIYAR rule apply? Just wondering what the rules are on Planet JMK.

Blue Wind said...

You make a good point. I am also curious to see what are the rules and policies on planet JMK.

JMK said...

Actually, Romney's bigamist grandfather IS a campaign issue and is probably, at least part of the reason for his poor showing to date, so what's your point on that again?

But Prescott Bush?

From a bio on him; " Bush was a typical New England Republican of his time; as a former banker, he was a pro-business conservative, but held many positions today considered socially moderate. Conservatives distrusted and at times openly opposed him.

Bush was involved with the American Birth Control League as early as 1942, and served as the treasurer of the first national capital campaign of Planned Parenthood in 1947. Bush was also an early supporter of the United Negro College Fund, serving as chairman of the Connecticut branch in 1951.

"From 1947 to 1950, he served as Connecticut Republican finance chairman, and was the Republican candidate for the United States Senate in 1950. One of his opponents at the time, a Republican woman named Vivien Kellems, said that Bush's nomination was an inside job of political sabotage in favor of William Benton, the Democratic nominee. A columnist in Boston said that Bush "is coming on to be known as President Truman's Harry Hopkins. Nobody knows Mr. Bush and he hasn't a Chinaman's chance."

"Bush's ties with Planned Parenthood also hurt him in heavily Catholic Connecticut, and were the basis of a last-minute campaign in churches by Bush's opponents; the family vigorously denied the connection, but Bush lost to Benton by only 1,000 votes.

"In 1952, he was elected to the United States Senate, defeating Abraham Ribicoff for the seat vacated by the death of James O'Brien McMahon. A staunch supporter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Prescott Bush served until January 1963. He was re-elected in 1956 with 55% of the vote over Democrat Thomas J. Dodd (father of the current U.S. Senator from Connecticut, Christopher J. Dodd), and decided not to run for another term in 1962. He was a key ally for the passage of Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System, and during his tenure supported the Polaris submarine project (ships which were built by Electric Boat Corporation in Groton, Connecticut), civil rights legislation, and the establishment of the Peace Corps.

"His boldest stance in the Senate was to vote to "condemn" (in fact a censure) Senator Joseph McCarthy for his anti-communist witch-hunt..."

I don't know, he doesn't sound all that great to me either (pretty Liberal, actually), BUT even so, he doesn't seem like a terrible guy...certainly no Nazi.

But I wonder what the ADL (yeah, there's a "fair-minded" group for you, yeah right) has to say about Prescott Bush?

Well, here it is; "There are unsubstantiated rumors concerning Prescott Bush's associations with the Nazi party. The Anti-Defamation League has stated, "Rumors about the alleged Nazi 'ties' of the late Prescott Bush, the grandfather of President George W. Bush, have circulated widely through the Internet in recent years. These charges are untenable and politically motivated." The rumors began with extreme right-wing attacks on George H.W. Bush during his 1980 presidential run and were renewed during his 1988 run.

"There has been a determined effort by Canadian bloggers, apparently connected with Lyndon LaRouche, to circulate reports that Bush himself was known as "Hitler's Angel". Bloggers from the United States recently have tried to go so far as to imply that George H. W. Bush was diverted to the War in the Pacific to fight the Japanese because of the close family ties to Nazi Germany."

Well, if Lyndon LaRouche hates him...he must be, at least, OK!

But back to Obama, did you know his mother's ancestors owned slaved?!

blair said...

Obama's link to slavery should not be an issue. African Americans who research their family trees are likely to discover they have black as well as white ancestors who onwed slaves. In the United States, thousands of free blacks owned slaves. Some of them were simply purchasing relatives out of slavery, but others bought slaves for the same reason white plantation owners bought slaves. One of the South's biggest slave owners was a free black man who was notorious for his harsh treatment of slaves.

JMK said...

I doubt his maternal side's slave owning is going to be that big a deal either Blair, BUT I think it highlights what Debra Dickerson (author of The End of Blackness) and others have pointed out, his nearly complete lack of connection to the African-American experience in America.

His father was an immigrant who returned to Kenya and his only truly American side of the family wasn't black.

He grew up in relative privilege, attended Harvard University. His "American experience" has been far closer to that of the descendants of privileged, former plantation owning whites, than that of average American blacks.

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