Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ancestors owned at least 14 slaves in the 1800s, according to NBC News.
- McConnell has spoken out against reparations for the descendants of slaves, arguing in June that "I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea."
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers owned more than a dozen slaves in the 1800s, according to a recent NBC News report. The news comes after McConnell spoke out against reparations for the descendants of slaves.
McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves while living in Limestone County, Alabama, according to the county "Slave Schedules" in the 1850 and 1860 censuses, reviewed by NBC News. None of their names were identified in those documents.
For example, and according to the 1850 census, Daley owned five female slaves between the ages of 2 and 22. Four of those slaves escaped during that time. In the 1860 census, he reportedly owned five slaves — three men and two women.
McConnell’s other great-great-grandfather, James McConnell, owned four female slaves, according to the 1860 census. They were identified as being 1, 3, 4 and 25 years old, and they all appear to have run away.
The senator has been vocal in his opposition to reparations, which have emerged as a hot button issue ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Last month, the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held the first hearing in more than a decade focused specifically on the issue, while many 2020 hopefuls have expressed their support for some type of compensation for the descendants of slaves.
"I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea," McConnell said in June, ahead of the House hearing. "We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president."
But, as noted by NBC News, the families that descended from slaves "are likely to have benefited from the labor of slaves that propped up farm families in earlier generations — a point made by many reparation supporters, who have said that descendants of slaves were never compensated for the economic benefit their forebears made to white families."
In response to McConnell’s remarks, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates condemned the Senate Majority Leader, arguing that reparations should address people affected by the legacy of Jim Crow segregation, white supremacy, and racism.
"[McConnell] was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama and a regime premised on electoral theft. He was alive to witness the harassment, jailing, and betrayal of those responsible for [civil rights] legislation by a government sworn to protect them," Coates said, adding, "Victims of that plunder are alive today — I’m sure they’d love a word with the majority leader."
McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News about his family’s history. NBC News added that, during its reporting, it did not find any news articles in which McConnell acknowledged that his great-great-grandfather’s had owned slaves.
"No one is seeking to judge anyone’s ancestors," Seth Rockman, a history professor at Brown University and co-editor of ‘Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development,’ told NBC News. "The whole conversation is about the American economic system as a whole, and the degree to which the debasement of African-descended people created the structures through which other Americans were able to prosper."
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