Former President Obama told a crowd in Richmond, Va., on Thursday that he's a distant cousin of former Confederate leader Jefferson Davis, joking that Davis is "spinning in his grave" in the wake of Obama's historic presidency. 

"I'm an eighth or ninth or tenth or something removed from Jefferson Davis, which was the head of the Confederacy," Obama told the crowd, saying he could trace to his mother's lineage all the way back to the Confederate president.

"Think about that. I'll bet he's spinning in his grave," he continued. 


The former president's comments come a day after it was reported that a public school in Mississippi named after Davis was being renamed for Obama.

Obama has acknowledged his unexpected ancestor before, noting his relation to Davis in his memoir "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance."

"While one of my great-great-grandfathers, Christopher Columbus Clark, had been a decorated Union soldier, his wife's mother was rumored to have been a second cousin of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy," he wrote. 

Obama made the comments at a campaign event for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam (D). 

The former president's comments came as he touched upon the violence that engulfed Charlottesville, Va., in August after white supremacists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. 

"We saw what happened in Charlottesville but we also saw what happened after Charlottesville," Obama said to a roar of applause, referring to the show of unity seen across the country in the wake of the violent protests.