Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that he is not for paying government reparations to the descendants of enslaved Africans.
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea,” the Republican said on June 18, a day ahead of a House hearing on the very topic. “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.”
However, a recent NBC report notes that McConnell’s own history may be deeply connected to the painful legacy: after all, two of his great-great-grandfathers – James McConnell and Richard Daley – owned at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama.
McConnell did not respond to NBC‘s request for comment.
Of course, McConnell’s ancestors’ sins are not a reflection of him. There is more than enough data to pull up opinions about McConnell himself on his own without relying on family history. However, what many experts and advocates have tried to highlight is how families like McConnell’s, who have benefited from the labor of the enslaved who helped them build generational wealth.
Meanwhile, the descendants of enslaved Africans were never compensated for the work that they have done to build this country up from nothing and still feel the sting of systemic oppression – bolstered by Jim Crow era laws and now, by ongoing, virulent racism.
According to NBC, an 1850 census shows that Richard Daley owned five female slaves, ages 2, 4, 18, 20 and 22. The four youngest were identified as “mulatto” or mixed race, while the 22-year-old was identified as Black. None of these girls or women were named in the census.
An 1860 census similarly showed that James McConnell owned four female slaves, ages 1, 3, 4 and 25, all of whom were classified as “mulatto.” They were also not named.
In the same census, Richard Daley said that he owned three female slaves – ages 11, 30 and 39 – and two male slaves – ages 7 and either 10 or 12. Again, all were left unnamed.
However, the records showed that most of those enslaved by McConnell’s ancestors were apparently able to escape. The 1860 census also showed that prior to the census count, all of James McConnell’s slaves ran away, as well as all but one of Daley’s. That being said, the 1850 census shows that four of Daley’s five slaves at the time had also escaped, meaning he likely bought more enslaved people between 1850 and 1860.