By now, the world knows exactly how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell feels about the issue of reparations for slavery. The debate about paying the ancestors of enslaved Black Americans was sparked last month when House Democrats held hearings on the issue. McConnell made clear at the time that “none of us currently living are responsible” for what he called America’s “original sin.”
The Kentucky Republican went on to tell reporters that “by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation” and even by electing an African American president. So, it’s not all that shocking to learn that two of McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers were actually slave owners in the 19th century, according to U.S. census records.
It seems clear now why he’s so against the ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) movement which seeks to reclaim/restore the critical national character of the African American identity and experience, namely through reparations.
It’s worth noting that many Americans have ancestors who owned slaves, especially in the south. McConnell reportedly spent his early childhood years in Alabama before eventually moving to Kentucky.
Details about McConnell’s ancestors were uncovered by NBC News through a search of ancestry and census records. The senator’s two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama and all but two of them were female, the report states.
No news whether or not the senator is aware of his family lineage, but noted in his 2016 memoir, “The Long Game” that he comes from “a long line of hardworking and often colorful McDonnells.” We’re not sure if he meant that literally or figuratively noting that many white families that owned slaves have benefited greatly from that free labor — a point reinforced by many reparations supporters.
McConnell, however, said he also opposes reparations because he believes it would be quite challenging figuring out who to compensate. In response to his comments, author Ta-Nehisi Coates noted that the mistreatment of Black Americans did not end with the Civil War.
“When it ended, this country could have extended its hallowed principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all, regardless of color — but America had other principles in mind. And so, for a century after the Civil War, Black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror — a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of Majority Leader McConnell,” Coates told the House Judiciary Committee last month.
Meanwhile, folks who oppose McConnell’s position believe a descendant of slave owners is not the ideal person to have a deciding vote on the issue.