Administration

Biden ancestors owned enslaved people, genealogist says

A genealogist who has conducted a sweeping look into President Biden’s lineage says records show some of the Scranton, Pa., native’s ancestors on his father’s side owned enslaved people. 

Alexander Bannerman, who along with presidential lineage expert Gary Boyd Roberts co-authored an article on Biden’s ancestry for the winter 2021 issue of the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors Magazine, told Politico that he came across the findings while looking through census records and slave schedules from Maryland. 

According to Bannerman, the 1800 census showed that Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather, Jesse Robinett, owned two enslaved people in Allegany County, and another great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Randle, enslaved a 14-year-old boy in Baltimore County. 

The researcher also told Politico that Randle and his family moved elsewhere in Baltimore County in 1860, at which point they owned a single male slave, according to census records. 

The president has long highlighted the Irish roots from his mother’s family, the Finnegans. 

Politico noted that Bannerman and Roberts do not include Biden’s ancestral ties to slavery in their academic article, with the authors arguing that it is fairly common for Americans with colonial-era roots to have enslaved people connected to their family’s history. 

Bannerman argued that Biden’s ties to slavery are not nearly as strong as many other American families.

“Not a lot of ancestors, and not a lot of slaves,” he told Politico. 

However, the genealogist said that the article does include a reference to Biden’s ancestor Allen Robanet, who had a distant tie to Varina Anne Banks Howell, the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. 

The Hill has reached out to The White House for comment. 

Elected officials’ ties to slavery has become a topic of particular interest in recent years, with analysis of historical census records showing that a number of public figures, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), had ancestors who owned enslaved people. 

O’Rourke addressed his family’s history in a July 2019 Medium post, writing, “We all need to know our own story as it relates to the national story, much as I am learning mine.” 

“It is only then, I believe, that we can take the necessary steps to repair the damage done and stop visiting this injustice on the generations that follow ours,” O’Rourke, then a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, added at the time.

Tags ancestry colonial rule Confederacy Enslaved Genealogy Jefferson Davis Joe Biden Maryland medium Mitch McConnell Pennsylvania Politico Scranton Slavery
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