A rule of thumb is: where there is old money, you will find some connection to slavery. So of course it wasn’t hard to determine that Anderson Cooper was connected, in a familial way, to slavery. His bloodline is tied to the Vanderbilts, one of the richest families in American history. Cooper’s great-great-grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt – who was also Cooper’s cousin through inbreeding – was a tycoon who built his wealth from shipping and railroads. He also owned plantations: one in particular was in Georgetown, S.C., where Michelle Robinson Obama’s ancestor Jim Robinson, who was born a slave in 1850, worked.
The family of the current Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, benefited from the enslavement of African people. According to Dr. Nick Draper of University College London, as many as one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons inherited part or all of their fortunes from the slave economy. As a result, there are now wealthy families all around the U.K. still indirectly enjoying the proceeds of slavery they have inherited. In addition to benefiting from slavery while it was legal in the British empire, Cameron’s ancestors were given £4,101, equal to more than £3 million today ($4.7 million dollars), for the 202 black people they enslaved on the Grange Sugar Estate in Jamaica.
On the season finale of NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?“, Paula Deen discovered that her ancestor, John Batts, was a slave owner. Deen, who was born, raised and still lives in Georgia, found that Batts, a politician and plantation owner, was very wealthy and a hefty portion of his assets were slaves.
“I have said so many times that my family was never involved in slavery in any way,” Deen said, adding, “It is horrific and it is sad.”
Pastor Rick Warren
Celebrity pastor Rick Warren encountered the sins—and triumphs—of his fathers when he sat down with Harvard history professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. for an PBS episode of ”Finding Your Roots.” Warren, who founded the 20,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., was stunned to learn that his third great-grandfather owned slaves in antebellum Alabama.
Author of bestselling “The Purpose Driven Life,” Warren delivered the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009.
George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush
According to researchers, a notoriously vicious slave trader, who brought captive slaves from West Africa to colonial America, is the same man whose descendants produced two U.S. presidents: George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush.
“Twelve American presidents owned slaves, eight while serving in office, and at least 25 presidents count slave owners among their ancestors. But Thomas Walker a direct ancestor of George W. and George H.W. Bush was part of a much more appalling group: Thomas Walker was a notorious slave trader active in the late 18th century along the coast of West Africa. Walker, George H.W. Bush’s great-great-great grandfather, was the captain of, master of, or investor in at least 11 slaving voyages to West Africa between 1784 and 1792.”
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, at least five Walker family households, George W. Bush’s ancestors by his father’s mother, owned slaves in Maryland’s Cecil County.
The outspoken atheist, who once branded the Catholic Church as “evil,” is the direct descendent of Henry Dawkins who owned 1,013 slaves in Jamaica until he died in 1744.
According to the U.K.-based Daily Mail, Dawkins’ 400-acre family estate, Over Norton Park near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, is believed to have been bought with money made through slave ownership hundreds of years ago.
Dawkins is best known as author of “The Selfish Gene.”
McEntire was able to trace her ancestral roots back several centuries in America and England. She discovered aspects of her family background that pained her greatly from the NBC documentary series, “Who Do You Think You Are?”, including the fact that one of her great-grandfathers was a slave owner.
John McCain is perhaps most well known as President Obama’s opponent in the 2008 presidential election. What is not as well known about McCain is that his ancestor owned about 120 slaves before the end of the Civil War.
The story of McCain’s family is significant, in that it teaches us about the ongoing legacy of slavery and racism in the U.S.
A Wall Street Journal article states that while descendants of McCain’s great-great-grandfather inherited and still own 1,500 acres of the original plantation land, the descendants of the Africans who were enslaved on the same plantation, “built a four -room school house with $1,750 they scraped together and $900 from philanthropy.” The black descendants also worked to save “enough to buy a small parcel of farmland.”
This is indicative of the inheritance of privilege: when it comes to wealth, white folks have been given a head start.
According to research by the Baltimore Sun, one of Obama’s ancestors, George Washington Overall, owned two slaves who were recorded in the 1850 census in Nelson County, Ky. The same records indicate that another Obama’s ancestors, Mary Duvall, also owned two slaves.
Note: We decided to add President Obama to this list despite the fact that he is not white. We made this decision based on the fact that the president’s mother’s ancestors owned slaves. Additionally, most African-American’s with white ancestors who owned slaves occurred as a result of unnatural relations between the slave and the slave master.