Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke decided to acknowledge he and his wife’s slave owner ancestors shortly before a report by The Guardian revealed his family’s slave-owning history.
On Sunday O’Rourke took to Twitter where he admitted that his ancestors, as well as his wife Amy’s, had owned slaves. O’Rourke wrote in a post on Medium that his paternal great-great-great-grandfather enslaved two women in the 1850s and his maternal great-great-great-grandfather, “most likely” also owned slaves.
“I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” O’Rourke wrote in the post. “That only increases the urgency I feel to help change this country so that it works for those who have been locked-out of — or locked-up in — this system.”
Something that we've been talking about in town hall meetings — the legacy of slavery in the United States — now has a much more personal connection. I was recently given documents showing that both Amy and I are descended from people who owned slaves. https://t.co/rGKKLqcoKf— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) July 15, 2019
The popular genealogy website Ancestry.com has located “abundant documentation” of O’Rourke’s and his wife’s ancestors’ slave-owning past and their support for the Confederacy, The Guardian reports. It was Andrew Jasper, O’Rourke’s paternal great-great-great grandfather, who enslaved two women named Eliza and Rose, both of whom were auctioned off in a “crying sale” after Jasper died, the report said.
Amy O’Rourke’s family had also owned several slaves, including ”‘one negro man called Peter,’ ‘a boy called Darsy,’ ‘a girl called Sally,’ a ‘negro man called Ned’ and ‘one other called Moses,’” the report added, citing a 1798 probate record.
The former Texas congressman told the outlet that he and his wife knew “nothing” about their families’ slave-owning past and are deeply troubled by the revelation.
“Amy and I sat down and talked through this,” O’Rourke said. “How Andrew was able, through his descendants, to pass on the benefits of owning other human beings. And ultimately I and my children are beneficiaries of that.”
Meanwhile, O’Rourke continued to advocate his support for reparations for slave descendants.
“I will continue to support reparations, beginning with an important national conversation on slavery and racial injustice,” he wrote on Medium.
O’Rourke said it’s critical that Americans “know our own story as it relates to the national story.”
“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,” he said.
Last week, NBC News released a report confirming that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s two great-great-great grandfathers had enslaved at least 14 people in Alabama in the 1800s.
McConnell likened himself to former President Barack Obama while acknowledging the report and defending his stance against slavery reparations.
“You know, I find myself once again in the same position” as Obama, McConnell said at a press conference when asked about the NBC report. “We both oppose reparations, and we both are the descendants of slaveholders,” he said.
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