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Negro slavery had already been established by the Southern states before the nation was

even founded. In fact, the question of whether slaves were people or property was

the most intractable problem at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia.



Which U.S. Presidents Owned Slaves?

By Rob Lopresti; Edited by Rudolph Lewis


Of the first five presidents, four owned slaves [Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe].  All four of these owned slaves while they were president. [The exception was John Adams]

Of the next five presidents (#6-10), four owned slaves.  Only two of them owned slaves while they were president [Andrew Jackson and John Tyler]

Of the next five presidents (#11-15), two owned slaves. Both of these two owned slaves while they were president. [James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor]

Of the next three presidents (#16-18) two owned slaves. Neither of them owned slaves while serving as president. [Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant]

The last president to own slaves while in office was the twelfth president, Zachary Taylor (1849-1850).

The last president to own slaves at all was the eighteenth president, Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877).

So twelve of our presidents owned slaves and eight of them owned slaves while serving as president.

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1. George Washington [February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799]

1789-1797 Virginia

When George Washington took over Mount Vernon at age 22 there were 18 slaves. When he married he gained control of 200 more which technically belonged to the estate of his wife’s first husband.  By 1786 he owned 216 slaves. (Flexner, James Thomas. George Washington: Anguish and Farewell. Boston: Little, Brown,1969, p.114)

While GW was serving as president in Philadelphia a Pennsylvania law was passed freeing slaves whose owners had been citizens of the state for six months.  GW sent his two most valuable slaves home, telling them it was for his wife’s convenience.(Wilkins, Roger.  Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism. New York: Beacon Press, 2001,  p.76)

In 1796 Oney (or Ona) Judge ran away to New Hampshire. She was one of GW’s slavesMartha’s personal servant.  President GW asked the Treasury Secretary and a customs agent for help in getting her back,  by force, if necessarybut she never returned. (Wilkins, Roger. Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism. New York: Beacon Press, 2001,  p. 82. also: Gerson, Evelyn.  "Ona Judge Staines: Escape From Washington."

When GW left the presidency he apparently left some house slaves behind in Philadelphia, knowing that under state law they would be quietly freed by having spent a certain amount of time in Pennsylvania. (Flexner, James Thomas. George Washington: Anguish and Farewell. Boston: Little, Brown,1969)

When he died in 1799 his will called for his manservant William Lee to be freed immediately, and given a pension. 

The other slaves were to be freed when his widow died. Martha chose to free them two years later. According to Abigail Adams this was because MW feared her life might be in danger, since her death meant freedom for the slaves. (Hirschfield, Fritz.  George Washington and Slavery: a Documentary Portrayal.  Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997, p. 214) 

Neither George nor Martha could legally free the dower slaves which still belonged to the Custis estate.


1786:  ”I can only say that no man living wishes more sincerely than I do to see the abolition of (slavery). . . . But when slaves who are happy & content to remain with their present masters, are tampered with & seduced to leave them . . . it introduces more evils than it can cure."(Hirschfield, Fritz  George Washington and Slavery: a Documentary Portrayal.  Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997, p.187)

A Slave's Defiance: The story of rebellious Oney Judge is finally being told 

The Handmaiden's Untold Tale, Oney Judge: Martha Washington's favorite slave

Who Was West Ford?

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2. John Adams  [October 30, 1735 – July 4, 1826]

1797-1801 Massachusetts

John Adam's cousin  Samuel Adams  apparently received a slave named Surry as a gift in 1765.  Some sources say she remained a slave; others say Samuel freed her immediately. 

In any case she stayed on as Samuel's  family cook for several decadeseven after slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts by a bill Samuel introduced.

1820: I shudder when I think of the calamities which slavery is likely to produce in this country.  You would think me mad if I were to describe my anticipations.  If the gangrene is not stopped I can see nothing but insurrection of the blacks against the whites.”  (Smith, Page. John Adams. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962, p. 138)

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3. Thomas Jefferson  [April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826]

1801-1809 Virginia

Thomas Jefferson inherited many slaves. His wife brought a dowry of more than 100 slaves, and he purchased many more throughout his life. At some points he was one of the largest slaveowners in Virginia. 

In 1790 Jefferson gave his newly married daughter and her husband 1000 acres of land and 25 slaves. (Miller, John Chester.  The Wolf By The Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery.  New York: Free Press, 1977)

In 1798 Jefferson owned 141 slaves, many of them elderly.  Two years later he owned 93. (Bigelow, John. “Jefferson’s Financial Diary.”  Harper’s. March 1885, v.70, n. 418, p.537.)

One of Jefferson’s slaves was Sally Hemings, allegedly the half-sister of his deceased wife. 

During Jefferson’s presidency a rumor appeared in print that she was his mistress.  Jefferson denied this story, which was also passed on as Hemings family tradition.  The youngest of Heming’s six children (and the only one whose paternity can be traced through  DNA) definitely descended from the Jefferson line, presumably either through Thomas, his brother Randolph, or one of Randolph’s sons.  Jefferson was in the vicinity of Sally Hemings during each period of conception.(See Miller, John Chester.  The Wolf By The Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery.  New York: Free Press, 1977, p.148-176)  For a discussion of the DNA issue see:  and:  

Jefferson freed one of Heming’s children and allowed another to run away unpursued.  Both of them were light enough to successfully pass for White. (See Miller, John Chester.  The Wolf By The Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery.  New York: Free Press, 1977, p165.) 

Jefferson freed five slaves in his will, all members of the Hemings family.  Sally was not among them.   130 slaves were sold when Jefferson's estate was auctioned off. (See Stanton, Lucia.  "Monticello to Main Street: The Hemings Family and Charlottesville."  The Magazine of Albemarle County History.  1997.  v. 55. pp. 94-96)

Jefferson’s daughter Martha freed Sally Hemings years later.  (See Miller, John Chester.  The Wolf By The Ears: Thomas Jefferson and Slavery.  New York: Free Press, 1977, p.168.) 

When Jefferson's estate was auctioned off at his death that 130 slaves were sold.

1776:  (King George III) has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms against us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he  also obtruded them thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”from TJ's draft of the Declaration of Independence. This paragraph was voted down by the Congressional Congress. (Jefferson, Thomas.  Writings.  NY: Library of America, 1984, p 22.) 

Like [Benjamin] Franklin, Jefferson found blacks esthetically displeasing. He wrote that just as it was normal for men to prefer good conformation in their horses and dogs, it was natural to distinguish plain from handsome races. As a livestock breeder, Jefferson knew that young animals inherit the characteristics of their parents. He saw no reason why eugenic principles should not be applied to humans and toyed with the idea of regulating human breeding.

Today, it is fashionable to call Jefferson a hypocrite, both because he condemned slavery but owned slaves and because he considered blacks inferior but may have had a black mistress. The authors of this book think it entirely possible that Jefferson had a liaison with his slave, Sally Hemmings. As they point out, she was, at most, only one quarter black and was widely described as beautiful. The affair would have begun after the death of Jefferson’s wife.—amren

About the Getting Word Project / African American Families at Monticello 

Teflon Sense of History Interview with Fountain Hayes / Uncle Jeff and His Contempos (Wilson) /

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Report of the Research Committee
on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
Thomas Jefferson Foundation

January 2000


Based on the examination of currently available primary and secondary documentary evidence, the oral histories of descendants of Monticello's African-American community, recent scientific studies, and the guidance of individual members of Monticello's Advisory Committee for the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and Advisory Committee on African-American Interpretation, the Research Committee has reached the following conclusions:

Dr. Foster's DNA study was conducted in a manner that meets the standards of the scientific community, and its scientific results are valid.

The DNA study, combined with multiple strands of currently available documentary and statistical evidence, indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely was the father of all six of Sally Hemings's children appearing in Jefferson's records. Those children are Harriet, who died in infancy; Beverly; an unnamed daughter who died in infancy; Harriet; Madison; and Eston.

Many aspects of this likely relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson are, and may remain, unclear, such as the nature of the relationship, the existence and longevity of Sally Hemings's first child, and the identity of Thomas C. Woodson.

The implications of the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson should be explored and used to enrich the understanding and interpretation of Jefferson and the entire Monticello community.—Monticello

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John Randolph of Roanoke

By Russell Kirk

John Randolph of Roanoke, a distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson (whose mother was a Randolph), cut one of the outstanding figures in American politics in the first third of the nineteenth century. Virtually nothing in his life was uninteresting. From leader of the Republican Party in the House in Jefferson's first term as president, Randolph went to leader of a new opposition party after his notorious break with Jefferson. Later, his famous speaking style (the speeches here are worth the volume's price and more!) and acerbic wit made him the terror of administrations of both parties. His duel with Secretary of State Henry Clay is immortal, his imbroglios with the young John C. Calhoun are mesmerizing, and the story of his death fascinates. Not included here is the controversy over his will: in the end, one of Randolph's wills was probated and the other failed, with the result that Randolph freed more than 400 slaves! He also bought them land in "free" Ohio, where the natives ran them off; I don't know what became of the land (or of the Randolph money that had bought it for them). Randolph's long-standing insistence that the Yankees were hypocrites when it came to slavery and emancipation finds some support here, to say the least.

Kirk, unfortunately, has a tendency to make every conservative he admires into a bygone Russell Kirk. Randolph, for one, was not nearly so religious as Kirk would have him, and what Christianity he had was—as one might expect—of an eccentric variety. Still, the text here is a nice entre' to Randolph's life, and the speeches and letters are priceless. We don't have politicians of this intellectual level, or with this grasp of the English language, anymore. Nor, alas, do we have any who are so consistently, insistently conservative.—Amazon customer / Randolph Slaves

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The Randolphs of Virginia; America's Foremost Family

By Jonathan Daniels

Jonathan Daniels' earlier books have delighted readers with their knowledgeable combination of public matters and private affairs. In The Randolphs of Virginia he pays due respect to the powerful leaders the family produced, led by Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and Robert E. Lee. He gives attention, too, to the family's lapses and scandals such as the mysterious elopement of John Marshall's grandmother with a plantation overseer, "a dirty plebian," and the trial of Jefferson's cousins Richard and Nancy Randolph on charges of adultery and infanticide. With a deft and precise hand, Daniels sorts out the genealogical tangles to tell a moving, informative and entertaining story of the greatness and also the instability that close intermarriage can produce. He has written a book steeped in American history made human by the triumphs and misfortunes of a powerful family. A scholarly guardian of one of the greatest Randolph lines was dismayed by some of the book's disclosures but he wrote that in comparison with most pedantic family histories it was like the 23rd Psalm in contrast to the multiplication table.

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4. James Madison  [March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836]

1809-1817  Virginia

James Madison grew up in a slave-owning family and owned slaves all his life.  In 1833  Madison sold several of his farms but not his slaves.  A year later he sold 16 slaves to a relative—with their permission. (Brant, p. 637) He did not free his slaves in his will. (Brant, Irving.  The Fourth President: A Life of James Madison.  Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis. 1970. p. 640) . . . A general emancipation of slaves ought to be 1. gradual.  2. equitable & satisfactory to the individuals immediately concerned.  3.  consistent with the existing & durable prejudices of the nation...  To be consistent with existing and probably unalterable prejudices in the U.S. freed blacks ought to be permanently removed beyond the region occupied by or allotted to a White population." (Madison, James.  Writings.  The Library of America.  NY 1999. p. 729) / Madison, James. The Papers of James Madison.  Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967

A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons

By Elizabeth Dowling Taylor / Foreword by Annette Gordon-Reed


Madison and the White House, Through the Memoir of a Slave—Rachel L. Swarns—16 August 2009—In 1809, a young boy from a wealthy Virginia estate stepped into President James Madison’s White House and caught the first glimpse of his new home. The East Room was unfinished, he recalled years later in a memoir. Pennsylvania Avenue was unpaved and “always in an awful condition from either mud or dust,” he recounted.  “The city was a dreary place,” he continued. His name was Paul Jennings, and he was an unlikely chronicler of the Madison presidency. When he first walked into the Executive Mansion, he was a 10-year-old slave. But over the course of his long life, Mr. Jennings witnessed, and perhaps participated in, the rescue of George Washington’s portrait from the White House during the War of 1812 and stood by the former president’s side at his deathbed. He bought his freedom, helped to organize a daring (and unsuccessful) slave escape and became the first person to put his White House recollections into a memoir. . . . In the 19-page memoir, Mr. Jennings, who served as a footman and later a valet to President Madison, recalled the chaotic escape from the White House hours before the British burned the building in 1814.

He described President Madison as a frugal and temperate man who owned only one suit, socialized with Thomas Jefferson and was so careful with his liquor that he probably never “drank a quart of brandy in his whole life.” Mr. Jennings said he often served and shaved the president and recalled that his master was kind to his slaves. He was 48 when he finally bought his freedom, years after Madison’s death in 1836.As a free man, Mr. Jennings worked in the government’s pension office, bought property and even helped support the former first lady Dolley Madison with “small sums from my own pocket” when she fell on hard times.

Mr. Jennings, who died in 1874 at age 75, did not discuss his personal difficulties in his memoir, but Ms. Taylor and others say he encountered many hardships. As a slave, he was forced to live apart from his wife and children, who lived on another plantation. And he seems to have chafed under Mrs. Madison’s ownership after her husband died.

Articles in abolitionist newspapers uncovered by researchers at the University of Virginia’s Dolley Madison Digital Edition, an online collection of Mrs. Madison’s correspondence, reported that she treated her slaves poorly. In March 1848, the Liberator newspaper published a letter charging that Mrs. Madison had hired out Mr. Jennings to others and then kept “the last red cent” of his pay, “leaving him to get his clothes by presents, night work, or as he might.” The letter also said Mrs. Madison had refused to free Mr. Jennings, as her husband had wished. Instead, she sold him to an insurance agent, who in turn sold him to Senator Daniel Webster for $120. (He promptly set Mr. Jennings free and let him work off the debt as a servant in his household.)—NYTimes

Paul Jennings, President James Madison's personal slave, told the first tale of White House life written by someone who lived there. Jennings, in his memoirs, debunked the oft-repeated White House legend of first lady Dolley Madison saving the portrait of Washington from invading British troops."This is totally false," Jennings said. "She had no time for doing it. It would have required a ladder to get it down. All she carried off was the silver."Instead a Frenchman, John Suse, and Magraw, the president's gardener, took the painting down and sent it off on a wagon, Jennings said. Later in his life, he would give part of the money he earned as a freedman to help a destitute Dolley Madison after her husband's death.—USHistory

Paul Jennings is primarily remembered for having published in 1865 the first memoir about life inside the White House, A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison

Let Us Honor Slave-Owning Presidents?—Elizabeth Dowling Taylor—20 February 2012—Ten-year-old Paul Jennings was one of the home slaves selected by President James Madison for the White House household staff. As a footman Jennings set and served meals, assisted the coachman, and ran messages and other errands. Later he became Madison's personal manservant or valet, and in freedom he authored the first White House memoir.

One enslaved man, John Freeman, served as a White House footman during both Jefferson's and Madison's administrations. [Thomas] Jefferson purchased Freeman in 1804 with the understanding, set by his former master, that he was to be freed in sixteen years. In 1809, the year Madison's first term began, the third president sold Freeman to his successor for $231.81 (calculated to the penny based on Freeman's remaining time as a slave). This is the only recorded instance of the sale of human property between these two presidents, though Jefferson also sold a woman, Thenia Hemings, and her five young daughters, to another of our slave-owning presidents, James Monroe.

It is easy to see the contradiction—some say hypocrisy—in the author of the Declaration of Independence and the father of the Constitution lording over plantations of more than one hundred slaves and presiding over a government devoted to upholding individual rights while being served by enslaved footmen in livery.

Yet we tend to make excuses for the failure of our Founding Fathers to end slavery. They were men of their time, they had to put union first, they did not understand that we are all one biological race. We look back and see slavery less as a political issue, more as a moral offense. The truth is that Madison and Jefferson saw it that way, too. . . .

Paul Jennings's great grandson, Dr. C Herbert Marshall, who, along with his fellow black doctors, could not practice in all-white hospitals or even join the American Medical Association, wrote an "op-ed" in the Negro History Bulletin in February of 1960 that started off, " I have every reason to be proud of being an American." It concluded, "Today, we find ourselves on the threshold of a new era ushering in the type of freedom for all for which my fore-parents sacrificed so much."—HuffingtonPost

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5. James Monroe  [April 28, 1758 – July 4, 1831]

1817-1825 Virginia

James Monroe inherited a slave named Ralph.  When he owned the farm Highland he owned 30 to 40 slaves.  ("James Monroe and Slavery")

1801:  “We perceive an existing evil which commenced under our Colonial System, with which we are not properly chargeable, or if at all not in the present degree, and we acknowledge the extreme difficulty of remedying it." (Monroe, James. The Writings of James Monroe.  New York: Knickerbocker Press,  1903. v3, p. 292-294) . . . Monroe was part of the African Colonization Society formed in 1816, which included members like Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson. . . . they helped send several thousand freed slaves to Africa from 1820–1840. The concern . . . was to prevent free blacks from influencing slaves to rebel in southern states. With about $100,000 in Federal grant money, the organization also bought land for those people in what is today Liberia. The capital of Liberia was named Monrovia after him.Wikipedia

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6. John Quincy Adams   [July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848]

1825-1829  Massachusetts

No Slaves

1841:  "What can I do for the cause of God and man, for the progress of human emancipation, for the suppression of the African slave-trade?  Yet my conscience presses me on; let me but die upon the breach." (Adams, John Quincy.  The Diary of John Quincy Adams. NY: Scribner's Sons, 1951, p. 519) . . . In 1841, Adams had the case of a lifetime, representing the defendants in United States v. The Amistad Africans in the Supreme Court of the United States. He successfully argued that the Africans, who had seized control of a Spanish ship on which they were being transported illegally as slaves, should not be extradited or deported to Cuba (a Spanish colony where slavery was legal) but should be considered free. Under President Martin Van Buren, the government argued the Africans should be deported for having mutinied and killed officers on the ship. Adams won their freedom, with the chance to stay in the United States or return to Africa.Wikipedia

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7. Andrew Jackson  [March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845]

1829-1837 South Carolina

Andrew Jackson bought his first slave, a young woman, in 1788. By 1794 his business included slave trading and he had purchased at least 16 slaves. (Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. New York: Harper and Row,1977, p.37, 55)

In the 1820s Jackson owned about 160 slaves. (James, Marquis.  Andrew Jackson: Portrait of a President.  Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1937, p. 31) He did not free his slaves in his will. 

1822:  "As far as lenity can be extended to these unfortunate creatures I wish you to do so; subordination must be obtained first, and then good treatment." (James, Marquis.  Andrew Jackson: Portrait of a President.  Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1937, p. 31)

Genealogical History of the Slaves of President Andrew Jackson

of Hermitage, Tennessee (1840-1877)   

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8. Martin Van Buren  [December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862]

1837-1841 New York

Owned slaves but not while he was president.  When Martin Van Buren was young his father owned six slaves. (Cole, Donald B.  Martin Van Buren and the American Political System.  Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1984, p.13) His only slave, Tom, ran away in 1814 (approx.). When Tom was found 8 years later, Martin Van Buren offered him for sale to the finder for $50. (Martin Van Buren and the American Political System,  p.110)

1837:  “(Before the election I declared that:) I must go into the Presidential chair the inflexible and  uncompromising opponent of every attempt on the part of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the wishes of the slaveholding States, and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest interference with it in the States where it exists.”" ("Martin Van Buren: Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1837"  )

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9. William Henry Harrison  [February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841]

1841 Virginia

Owned slaves but not while he was president. William Henry Harrison’s father and grandfather owned many slaves.  Harrison took seven of them with him to the Northwest Territory in 1800 where slavery was illegal. They then became indentured servants on terms undistinguishable from slavery.  (Clanin, Douglas E.  Personal communication.  8/13/01, p.1, and Cleaves, Freeman.  Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time.  Washington, New York: Kenninat Press, 1939. p. 7, 253) ) 

1801: Harrison purchase a runaway slave and later freed him.   He stayed on for many years as a servant. (Old Tippecanoe, p.351). In 1804, Harrison was appointed Governor of Indiana territory, which was “free soil.”  He attempted to have slavery made legal there, but generally followed the law by keeping Blacks as indentured servants who were free after about a decade of service. (Old Tippecanoe, p.351)

1820:   “We cannot emancipate the slaves of the other states without their consent… [except] by producing a convulsion which would undo us all.  We must wait the slow but certain progress of those good principles which are everywhere gaining ground, and which assuredly will ultimately prevail.” (Old Tippecanoe, p. 254)

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10. John Tyler   [March 29, 1790 – January 18, 1862]

1841-1845 Virginia

Owned slaves.

1838:  “(God) works most inscrutably to the understandings of men;the negro is torn from Africa, a barbarian, ignorant and idolatrous; he is restored civilized, enlightened, and a Christian.” (Tyler, Lyon G.  The Letters and Times of the Tylers.  Richmond: Whittet and Shepperson, 1884, p. 569) . . . Tyler was a slaveholder for his entire life. John Dunjee claimed to be the illegitimate son of John Tyler, a child of Tyler and one of his female slaves. Early in his presidency Tyler was attacked by a newspaper alleging he had fathered (and sold) several sons with his slaves, prompting a response from the Tyler administration linked newspaper the Madisonian.Wikipedia

Rev. John William Dungy (1833-1903) was a Baptist minister, journalist, politician, missionary, educator, bibliophile, farmer, businessman, and public speaker. He was born into slavery in New Kent County , Virginia in 1833. His children stated that he was the grandson of the 10th president of the United States , John Tyler. The story of Rev. Dungy's life is poignantly relevant to the topic of emancipation. The story of his life would have been lost if not for emancipation. In 1865, Rev. Dungy returned from Canada to the United States, where he began life anew as a freeman. As a freeman, he made an extraordinary contribution to the life of the former slaves and to their children. By any stretch of the imagination, he was an extraordinary community builder.

The country is virtually littered with the churches he either built or pastured, stretching from Augusta, Georgia to North Carolina to Rhode Island and from Rhode Island to Minnesota and later Oklahoma  Rev Dungy helped to build and/or administer numerous all black colleges including Storer College in Harper's Ferry, Spelman College in Georgia, Shaw College in North Carolina, Hampton College in Virginia, and later Langston University in Oklahoma.—Peggy Brooks-Bertram

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11. James K. Polk   [November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849]

1845-1849 North Carolina

In 1832 he had fifteen slaves.

1830:  “A slave dreads the punishment of stripes (i.e. whipping) more than he does imprisonment, and that description of punishment has, besides, a beneficial effect upon his fellow-slaves.” (Sellers, Charles Grier, Jr.  James K. Polk, Jacksonian, 1795-1843. Princeton: Princeton University Press,1957, p. 186) . . . Polk was a slaveholder for his entire life. His father, Samuel Polk, had left Polk more than 8,000 acres of land, and divided about 53 slaves to his widow and children after he died. James inherited twenty of his father's slaves, either directly or from deceased brothers. . . . Polk's will stipulated that their slaves were to be freed after his wife Sarah had died. However, the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution freed all remaining slaves in rebel states long before the death of his wife in 1891.Wikipedia

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12. Zachary Taylor   [November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850]

1849-1850 Virginia

Zackary Taylor's father owned 26 slaves in 1800.  (Hamilton, Holman.  Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House.  Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill,.1951, p. 30)

In 1847 Taylor owned more than 100 slaves.  (Zachary Taylor, p.18)  

Taylor supposedly never sold a slave. (Zachary Taylor, p. 31)

1847:  “So far as slavery is concerned, we of the south must throw ourselves on the constitution and defend our rights under it to the last, and when arguments will no longer suffice, we will appeal to the sword, if necessary.” (Zachary Taylor, p. 45)

Taylor was the last President to hold slaves while in office, and the last Whig to win a presidential election.

Known as "Old Rough and Ready," Taylor had a forty-year military career in the United States Army, serving in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Second Seminole War. He achieved fame leading American troops to victory in the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican–American War. As president, Taylor angered many Southerners by taking a moderate stance on the issue of slavery. He urged settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage and draft constitutions for statehood, setting the stage for the Compromise of 1850. Taylor died just 16 months into his term, the third shortest tenure of any President. He is thought to have died of gastroenteritis. Only Presidents William Henry Harrison and James Garfield served less time. Taylor was succeeded by his Vice President, Millard Fillmore.Wikipedia

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13. Millard Fillmore  [January 7, 1800 – March 8, 1874]

1850-1853 New York

Owned no slaves

1850:  “God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil, for which we are not responsible, and we must endure it, and give it such protection as is guaranteed by the constitution, till we can get rid of it without destroying the last hope of free government in the world.”  (Rayback, p.162) . . . He opposed the proposal to keep slavery out of the territories annexed during the Mexican-American War (to appease the South), and so supported the Compromise of 1850, which he signed, including the Fugitive Slave Act ("Bloodhound Law") which was part of the compromise. . . . Some northern Whigs remained irreconcilable, refusing to forgive Fillmore for having signed the Fugitive Slave Act. They helped deprive him of the Presidential nomination in 1852. Within a few years it was apparent that although the Compromise had been intended to settle the slavery controversy, it served rather as an uneasy sectional truce.Wikipedia

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14. Franklin Pierce  [November 23, 1804 – October 8, 1869]

1853-1857 New Hampshire

Owned no Slaves

1838:  " It is admitted that domestic slavery exists here (Washington, DC) in its mildest form.  That part of the population are bound together by friendship and the nearer relations of life.  They are attached to the families in which they have lived from childhood.  They are comfortably provided for, and apparently contented." (Congressional Globe, 1838. V.6, N.1, p. 54) . . .

The Act [Kansas-Nebraska Act]  provoked outrage among northerners who saw Pierce as kowtowing to slave-holding interests, provided the impetus for the formation of the Republican Party, and contributed to critical estimates of Pierce as untrustworthy and easily manipulated. Having lost public confidence, Pierce failed to receive the nomination by his party for a second term. Pierce's hiring of a full-time bodyguard— the first president to do so—is testament to his ruined reputation.—Wikipedia

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15. James Buchanan   [April 23, 1791 – June 1, 1868]

1857-1861 Pennsylvania

Technically he owned no slaves.  While running for the senate from Pennsylvania James Buchanan discovered that his sister’s husband owned two slaves in Virginia. Buchanan purchased them, immediately converting them to his indentured servants. Daphne Cook, aged 22, was indentured for seven years. Ann Cook, age 5, was indentured for 23 years.( Klein, Philip Shriver. President James Buchanan: A Biography.  University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press,1962, p.100)

James Buchanan was the only president who never married.  For more than a decade he shared a home with Senator William Rufus King of Alabama, leading to speculation, then and now, that they were homosexuals.   King was a slaveowner and some historians think his influence was the reason Buchanan was more pro-South and pro-slavery than the typical Pennsylvania politician.  ("The Other Buchanan Controversy")

1836:  "The natural tendency of their publications is to produce dissatisfaction and revolt among the slaves, and to incite their wild passions to vengeance...  Many a mother clasps her infant to her bosom when she retires to rest, under dreadful apprehensions that she may be aroused from her slumbers by the savage yells of the slaves by whom she is surrounded.  These are the works of the abolitionists." (Curtis, George Ticknor. Life of James Buchanan.  New York: Harper and Brothers, 1883, v.1 p. 317) 

In his inaugural address, in addition to promising not to run again, Buchanan referred to the territorial question as "happily, a matter of but little practical importance" since the Supreme Court was about to settle it "speedily and finally." Two days later, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Dred Scott Decision, asserting that Congress had no constitutional power to exclude slavery in the territories. Part of Taney's written judgment has been characterized as obiter dictum—statements commonly made by a jurist that are not central to the decision in the case; in this instance such comments delighted Southerners while creating a furor in the North. Buchanan, in his view, preferred to see the territorial question resolved by the Supreme Court. It is known that he was told of the Court's decision a week before his inauguration. Abraham Lincoln denounced him as an accomplice of the Slave Power, which Lincoln saw as a conspiracy of slave owners to seize control of the federal government and nationalize slavery. However, there is no extant contemporaneous statement that Buchanan interfered in the Court's rendering of the Dred Scott decision.—Wikipedia

*   *   *   *   *

16. Abraham Lincoln  [February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865]

1861-1865 Kentucky

Owned no slaves.

1865:  “I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others.  Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”  (Lincoln, Abraham . The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953,  1953, v8, pp. 360-1)

Lincoln was an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery in the United States, which he deftly articulated in his campaign debates and speeches. As a result, he secured the Republican nomination and was elected president in 1860. After war began, following declarations of secession by Southern slave states, he concentrated on both the military and political dimensions of the war effort, seeking to reunify the nation.

He vigorously exercised unprecedented war powers, including the arrest and detention, without trial, of thousands of suspected secessionists. He issued his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and promoted the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, abolishing slavery.—Wikipedia

August 14, 1862—A Historic White House Meeting—Lincoln met with five free black ministers, the first time a delegation of their race was invited to the White House on a matter of public policy. The President made no effort to engage in conversation with the visitors, who were bluntly informed that they had been invited to listen. Lincoln did not mince words, but candidly told the group:

You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.

... Even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race ... The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.

... We look to our condition, owing to the existence of the two races on this continent. I need not recount to you the effects upon white men growing out of the institution of slavery. I believe in its general evil effects on the white race.

See our present condition -- the country engaged in war! -- our white men cutting one another's throats, none knowing how far it will extend; and then consider what we know to be the truth. But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of slavery, and the colored race as a basis, the war would not have an existence.

It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.

An excellent site for black resettlement, Lincoln went on, was available in Central America [Chiriqui, Panama].It had good harbors and an abundance of coal that would permit the colony to be quickly put on a firm financial footing. The President concluded by asking the delegation to determine if a number of freedmen with their families would be willing to go as soon as arrangements could be made.—IHR

*   *   *   *   *

17. Andrew Johnson   [December 29, 1808 – July 31, 1875]

1865-1869 North Carolina

Owned slaves but not while he was president.  Andrew Johnson bought his first slave, a manservant named Sam, in 1837. He eventually owned 8.  (Thomas, Lately. The First President Johnson.  New York: William Morrow and Company.  1968, p. 87)

Johnson owned slaves at the beginning of the Civil War.  He said that some of them came back voluntarily after being confiscated by the Confederates, and these he treated as freemen. (Johnson, Andrew.  The Papers of Andrew Johnson.  Vol. 6.  Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1983, p 549.) . . . If he didn’t free all of his individually he certainly freed them in 1864 when, as military governor of Tennessee, he proclaimed freedom for all slaves in the state. (Johnson, Andrew.  Speeches of Andrew Johnson, President of the United States.  Boston: Little, Brown,.1866, p. xxxvii)

1865:  “You tell me, friends, of the liberation of the colored people of the South.  But have you thought of the millions of Southern white  people who have been liberated by the war?”  (The First President Johnson, p. 347)

Andrew Johnson

The 17th President, 1865-1869

By Annette Gordon-Reed

*   *   *   *   *

18. Ulysses S. Grant

1869-1877 Ohio

The only evidence that USG owned slaves is a document he signed in 1859 freeing one, William Jones. However, Grant certainly had some control over and use of slaves his father-in-law gave his wife. (Simon, John Y.  The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967, p. 347)

1885: "The (South) was burdened with an institution abhorrent to all civilized people not brought up under it, and one which degraded labor, kept it in ignorance and enervated the governing class. . . .  Soon the slaves would have outnumbered the masters, and, not being in sympathy with them, would have risen in their might and exterminated them.  The war was expensive to the South, as well as to the North, both in blood and treasure, but it was worth all it cost." (Grant, Ulysses S.  Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant.  New York: Century Co,1885, V.1, pp. 507-8)

Source: home.nas

*   *   *   *   *

Report of the Research Committee
on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
Thomas Jefferson Foundation

January 2000


Based on the examination of currently available primary and secondary documentary evidence, the oral histories of descendants of Monticello's African-American community, recent scientific studies, and the guidance of individual members of Monticello's Advisory Committee for the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and Advisory Committee on African-American Interpretation, the Research Committee has reached the following conclusions:

Dr. Foster's DNA study was conducted in a manner that meets the standards of the scientific community, and its scientific results are valid.

The DNA study, combined with multiple strands of currently available documentary and statistical evidence, indicates a high probability that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings, and that he most likely was the father of all six of Sally Hemings's children appearing in Jefferson's records. Those children are Harriet, who died in infancy; Beverly; an unnamed daughter who died in infancy; Harriet; Madison; and Eston.

Many aspects of this likely relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson are, and may remain, unclear, such as the nature of the relationship, the existence and longevity of Sally Hemings's first child, and the identity of Thomas C. Woodson.

The implications of the relationship between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson should be explored and used to enrich the understanding and interpretation of Jefferson and the entire Monticello community.—Monticello

 *   *   *   *   *

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account 

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom (1777), the third President of the United States (1801–1809) and founder of the University of Virginia (1819). He was an influential Founding Father and an exponent of Jeffersonian democracy.

Sarah "Sally" Hemings (Shadwell, Albemarle County, Virginia, circa 1773 – Charlottesville, Virginia, 1835) was a mixed-race slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson through inheritance from his wife. She was the half-sister of Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson by their father John Wayles. She was notable because most historians now believe that the widower Jefferson had six children with her, and maintained an extended relationship for 38 years until his death. When Jefferson's relationship and children were reported in 1802, there was sensational coverage for a time, but Jefferson remained silent on the issue. Four Hemings-Jefferson children survived to adulthood. He let two "escape" in 1822 at the age of 21 and freed the younger two in his will in 1826.

 *   *   *   *   *

Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Attorney Gordon-Reed (law, New York Law Sch.) presents a lawyer's analysis of the evidence for and against the proposition that Jefferson was the father of several children born to his household slave Sally Hemings. Gordon-Reed is not concerned with Jefferson and Hemings as much as she is with how Jefferson's defenders have dealt with the evidence about the case. Her book takes aim at such noteworthy biographers as Dumas Malone, who has been quick to accept evidence against a liaison and quick to reject evidence for one.—Library Journal

 *   *   *   *   *

James Loewen on telling the truth about Confederates

*   *   *   *   *

Lyndon Baines Johnson Signs 1964 Civil Rights Act

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed after increasing political pressure and violence against African-Americans. The drive for its passage was boosted by the assassination of JFK. This was the most far-reaching legislation of its kind since Reconstruction. It included 11 titles which dealt with voting practices, segregation, provided financial aid to desegregating schools, extended the life of the Civil Rights Commission for four more years, outlawed federal funds for educations institutions or programs practicing discrimination, outlawed employment and union discrimination, required gathering census data by race in some areas, prevented federal courts from sending a civil rights case back to state or local courts, established the Community Relations Service (CRS) to arbitrate local race problems and provided right of jury trial in any case that arose from any section of the act.Civil Rights Acts and Other Remedies

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public ("public accommodations").

Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment. The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who would later sign the landmark Voting Rights Act into law.Wikipedia

*   *   *   *   *

The Black History of the White House (Clarence Lusane)

Official histories of the United States have ignored the fact that 25 percent of all U.S. presidents were slaveholders, and that black people were held in bondage in the White House itself. And while the nation was born under the banner of "freedom and justice for all," many colonists risked rebelling against England in order to protect their lucrative slave business from the growing threat of British abolitionism. These historical facts, commonly excluded from schoolbooks and popular versions of American history, have profoundly shaped the course of race relations in the United States.

In this unprecedented work, Clarence Lusane presents a comprehensive history of the White House from an African American perspective, illuminating the central role it has played in advancing, thwarting or simply ignoring efforts to achieve equal rights for all. Here are the stories of those who were forced to work on the construction of the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the determined leaders who pressured U.S. presidents to outlaw slavery, White House slaves and servants who went on to write books, Secret Service agents harassed by racist peers, Washington insiders who rose to the highest levels of power, the black artists and intellectuals invited to the White House, community leaders who waged presidential campaigns, and many others. Juxtaposing significant events in White House history with the ongoing struggle for civil rights, Clarence Lusane makes plain that the White House has always been a prism through which to view the social struggles and progress of black Americans.

My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House is an autobiographical novel by Lillian Rogers Parks (with Frances Spatz Leighton). The memoir was based on Mrs. Park's recollections of thirty years (1931-1961) as a seamstress in the White House (the administrations of Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower) and on childhood memories of her mother's 30 years of domestic service (Margaret 'Maggie' Rogers was head housemaid at the White House from 1909-1939, also spanning several administrations). It became a Runaway Best-Seller & Later NBC Produced their 11 time Emmy Nominated Mini-Series on the Life of Lillian Rogers Parks and her Mother, Maggie Rogers.

*   *   *   *   *

My Thirty Years Backstairs at the White House

By Lillian Rogers Parks

This memoir is based on Mrs. Park's recollections of thirty years (1931-1961) as a seamstress in the White House (the administrations of Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower) and on childhood memories of her mother's 30 years of domestic service (Margaret 'Maggie' Rogers was head housemaid at the White House from 1909-1939, also spanning several administrations).  It became a runaway Best-Seller & later NBC Produced their 11 time Emmy Nominated Mini-Series on the Life of Lillian Rogers Parks and her Mother, Maggie Rogers.—amazon review

The title of Mrs. Parks's 1961 memoirs, written with Frances Spatz Leighton, was somewhat misleading. For although Mrs. Parks worked as an observant White House seamstress and maid only from the beginning of the Hoover Administration in 1929 to the end of the Eisenhower years in 1961, she had been a familiar figure at the White House since she was a little girl.

That is because her mother, Maggie Rogers, who joined the White House staff on the fourth day of the Taft Administration, would often take her daughter to work with her. And when she did not, she would come home to regale her family with stories of what she had seen or heard at the White House that day.—NYTimes

*   *   *   *   *

American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro

By Nathaniel Weyl and William Marina

This book shows that most of America's great statesmen from the Revolutionary War to the Kennedy years were not overly fond of Blacks and did not believe in the intelligence of Black people or their ability to assimilate into American society. This is good in that it provides some interesting statements from Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, etc. that are not well known. As the authors point out, the United States inherited a race problem. Negro slavery had already been established by the Southern states before the nation was even founded. In fact, the question of whether slaves were people or property was the most intractable problem at the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. . . .

As Mr. Weyl and Mr. Marina point out, in its time, the American Colonization Society enjoyed the support of the most powerful and prestigious men in America.

Its first meeting was called to order in 1816 by Henry Clay. At various times it had, not merely as members but as officers, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, Stephen Douglas, William Seward, Francis Scott Key, Gen. Winfield Scott, Matthew Carey (the prominent Philadelphia publisher), Edward Everett (governor of Massachusetts and president of Harvard) and two Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, John Marshall and Roger Taney. The purpose of the society was, in Henry Clay’s words, to “rid our country of a useless and pernicious, if not dangerous portion of the population.”

The authors of this book make it clear that the dividing line of respectable opinion before the Civil War was not whether the Negro should be slave or free but whether he should be a slave or be driven out of the country. Even in the North, a great many people were perfectly content for the black man to remain a slave. Abolitionists, who dared not even show their faces in the South, were seen as busybody subversives in the North as well. They were often beaten up or tarred and feathered. . . .

Mr. Weyl and Mr. Marina describe the many efforts Lincoln made to promote colonization even during the darkest hours of the war. He persuaded Congress to appropriate money to buy up the slaves in the District of Columbia and send them out of the country. He invited a delegation of prominent blacks to the White House—the first time blacks had ever received such an invitation—to ask them to persuade other blacks to go to Haiti or Central America. He even considered setting aside Texas as an asylum for blacks so that the rest of the country could be free of them. . . .

Mr. Weyl and Mr. Marina report that Woodrow Wilson was a firm segregationist, who, as president of Princeton, used evasive means to prevent blacks from enrolling. . . .

Warren Harding was dogged throughout his life by rumors that his great-grandmother was part black. He was never able to silence his critics for he himself was uncertain about the facts. . . . He was one of the first Presidents to promote the view that blacks could have political and economic equality even if they were denied social equality.

Truman and Eisenhower continued to struggle with this slippery idea. However, Truman finally concluded that even though private citizens could discriminate in employment, the government could not. He integrated the armed services, even over the strenuous objections of the Navy, thereby enforcing for others the social mixing he himself avoided. . . .

Mr. Weyl and Mr. Marina end their narrative with John Kennedy, who was the first President wholly to disavow, at least in public, all racial consciousness.amren

*   *   *   *   *

Jefferson's Pillow: The Founding Fathers

and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger Wilkins

This astonishing book by the 1980s antiapartheid leader Wilkins (a professor of history at George Mason University and Pulitzer Prize-winner) provides a brief, but tremendously incisive demythologizing of four Virginian founders Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Mason (whose stature Wilkins justly elevates) and their conflicted attitudes toward race, in the process humanizing them and deepening our appreciation of the internal struggles involved in achieving their greatness, however flawed or incomplete. (There's nothing forced in this evaluation, as Wilkins acknowledges their enormous contribution to activists such as himself today.)

Where others routinely excuse past figures or judge them by present standards, Wilkins exemplifies a subtler, sounder approach.

 Reaching back to England and Virginia in the 1600s, he briskly illuminates the historical, ideological and socioeconomic contexts that made a burning concern for freedom not just compatible with slavery, but materially and psychologically dependent on it. Surprising connections prove particularly revealing, as when Wilkins describes two English-educated second-generation Virginia aristocrats as suffering "something akin to the problems encountered by the bright barrio or ghetto youngster who is selected and groomed and sent to Harvard and then tries to return to his or her roots."

He gets inside the "addictive" naturalness of privilege that slaveowners enjoyed via his own draft-deferred student experience during the Korean War, but without forgetting his ancestors' suffering as slaves. Indeed, reflections on his family history ground Wilkins and allow him to develop enormous sympathy for and insight into his subjects without losing balance or excusing the inexcusable. His insight recalls James Baldwin, arguably the best we've ever had for appreciating the humanity of even the most flawed among us without yielding an inch of moral principle.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

Andrew Johnson

The 17th President, 1865-1869

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Annette Gordon-Reed sets the tone for her study of Andrew Johnson . . . in her introductory remarks: “Throughout the entirety of his political career Andrew Johnson did everything he could to make sure blacks would never become equal citizens in the United States of America.” The remainder of this study is devoted to prove this conclusion. In overly long sentences the author examines Johnson’s roots. Beginning with “We can never know for certain,” the author describes in detail the psychological driving force behind Johnson’s actions as Congressman, Governor, U.S. Senator, and President. It is certainly true that Johnson was a politician in a slave holding state. As such, the positions he took and the votes he cast were in support of the maintenance and expansion of slavery in the United States.

Despite this constancy, he was considered a maverick within both the Whig and Democratic parties. When secession came, he was the only U.S. Senator from a slave state who remained in the Senate and loyal to the Union. He was then stripped of his position, lost his personal possessions and had his family held virtually prisoner in eastern Tennessee.

Early in the war, Lincoln appointed Johnson as military governor of Tennessee. During his tenure, Governor Johnson was considered a hard line Unionist. So, when Lincoln was challenged within his own party in 1864, he chose Johnson, a boarder state Unionist as his running mate on the National Union Party ticket. Successfully elected, the congressional radicals looked forward to working with Johnson, after Lincoln’s assassination.

But Johnson reversed himself and revealed that he shared Lincoln’s belief that the Southern states had never actually legally left the Union. Thus, Reconstruction was under the direction of the executive branch of the government, not the Congress and the Senate. So, during the recess of 1865, Johnson moved swiftly to restore the Confederate states to full participation in the Union. With this action, Johnson set the stage for a clash with the legislative branch over the separation of powers. That struggle would begin in December of 1865 with the refusal to seat delegations from the “reconstructed” Southern states.

Ms. Reed recognized the dynamics of this situation and insists that Johnson used the power of the presidency to protect the right of white people and suppress those of the new freedmen. So it would seem that a president who supported federalism vs. state’s rights in 1860 reversed his position in order to insure white supremacy in 1865. She tells the reader, “Though he remained loyal to the Union, President Johnson was a white southerner to the core.”

The author considers President Andrew Johnson a racist. Certainly by modern standards, he was. He is clearly seen to say that the Negro race is inferior to the Caucasian. What the reader will not hear from Ms. Reed is that most politicians of his time believed in white supremacy, too. She also insists that Johnson missed opportunities to work out the Reconstruction differences between the Administration and Congress; and that a man of stronger character would have reached out to the Radicals. But she decides that his racism prevented him from doing so.

Ms. Gordon-Reed’s study is nonetheless a fascinating look into a very difficult post-war time for the leaders of the United States. We are given a small glimpse into the monumental power struggle that followed the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. It is well worth the time to read.

Reviewer Dr. Michael J. Deeb is the author of three novels: Duty and Honor, Duty Accomplished, and Honor Restored. He is also a retired university instructor of American history—NYJournalofBooks

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A Slave in the White House

Paul Jennings and the Madisons

By Elizabeth Dowling Taylor

Foreword by Annette Gordon-Reed

Paul Jennings was born into slavery on the plantation of James and Dolley Madison in Virginia, later becoming part of the Madison household staff at the White House. Once finally emancipated by Senator Daniel Webster later in life, he would give an aged and impoverished Dolley Madison, his former owner, money from his own pocket, write the first White House memoir, and see his sons fight with the Union Army in the Civil War. He died a free man in northwest Washington at 75. Based on correspondence, legal documents, and journal entries rarely seen before, this amazing portrait of the times reveals the mores and attitudes toward slavery of the nineteenth century, and sheds new light on famous characters such as James Madison, who believed the white and black populations could not coexist as equals; French General Lafayette who was appalled by this idea; Dolley Madison, who ruthlessly sold Paul after her husband's death; and many other since forgotten slaves, abolitionists, and civil right activists

*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

*   *   *   *   *

A Matter of Justice

Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution

By David. A. Nichols

David A. Nichols  takes us inside the Oval Office to look over Ike's shoulder as he worked behind the scenes, prior to Brown, to desegregate the District of Columbia and complete the desegregation of the armed forces. We watch as Eisenhower, assisted by his close collaborator, Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., sifted through candidates for federal judgeships and appointed five pro-civil rights justices to the Supreme Court and progressive judges to lower courts. We witness Eisenhower crafting civil rights legislation, deftly building a congressional coalition that passed the first civil rights act in eighty-two years, and maneuvering to avoid a showdown with Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, over desegregation of Little Rock's Central High. Nichols demonstrates that Eisenhower, though he was a product of his time and its backward racial attitudes, was actually more progressive on civil rights in the 1950s than his predecessor, Harry Truman, and his successors, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. . . .  In fact, Eisenhower's actions laid the legal and political groundwork for the more familiar breakthroughs in civil rights achieved in the 1960s.

*   *   *   *   *

The First Emancipator

The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves

By Andrew Levy

In 1791, at a time when the nation's leaders were fervently debating the contradiction of slavery in a newly independent nation, wealthy Virginia plantation owner Robert Carter III freed more than 450 slaves. It was to be the largest emancipation until the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln. Levy offers an absorbing look at the philosophical and religious debate and the political and family struggles in which Carter engaged for years before very deliberately and systematically freeing his slaves as he attempted to provide a model for others to follow. Drawing on historic documents, including Carter's letters and painstakingly detailed accounts of plantation activities, Levy conveys the strongly held beliefs that drove Carter through the political and religious fervor of the time to arrive at a decision at odds with those of other prominent leaders and slaveholders of the time, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Levy offers a fascinating look at one man's redemption and his eventual lapse into historical obscurity despite his incredibly bold actions. Well researched and thoroughly fascinating, this forgotten history will appeal to readers interested in the complexities of American slavery.—Booklist

Robert "Councillor" Carter III (February 1727/28 – March 10, 1804) was an American plantation owner, founding father and onetime British government official. After the death of his wife, Frances Ann Tasker Carter, in 1787, Carter embraced the Swedenborgian faith and freed almost 500 slaves from his Nomini Hall plantation and large home in Westmoreland County. By a "Deed of Gift" filed with the county in 1791, he began the process of manumitting slaves in his lifetime. His manumission is the largest known release of slaves in North American history prior to the American Civil War and the largest number ever manumitted by an individual in the US. . . . Toward the end of his life, Carter moved from Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. In part he wanted some distance from family and neighbors who looked askance at his Swedenborgian faith and program of manumission. In 1803 the year before his death, Carter wrote his daughter Harriot L. Maund, "My plans and advice have never been pleasing to the world."—Wikipedia

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 22 February 2011




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