Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican lawmaker from Kentucky, is the descendent of at least two slave owners, according to a genealogy search conducted by NBC News — and he is also on record as one of the lawmakers who opposes reparations to the descendents of African-American slaves.
Mcconnell’s two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, lived in rural Alabama and combined owned at least 14 slaves, the news outlet reported, as documented in the Limestone County “Slave Schedules” in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.
Richard Daley reportedly owned five female slaves in 1850, between the ages of 2 and 22.
According to NBC’s research: “Four are classified as ‘mulatto’ — a now-offensive term for mixed-race people. Their ages were 2, 4, 18 and 20. One 22-year-old slave was identified as black. None of them are named in the document.”
In the 1860 census, James McConnell is listed as owning four female slaves, “identified in the records only by their ages, which were 1, 3, 4 and 25, and by their race — ‘mulatto.’”
In that same year’s census, Richard Daley is listed as owning a total of five slaves, three males and two females: “Two of those females, ages 30 and 11, were classified as mulatto, according to the records. The other woman, who was 39, was listed as black. Both males, one who was either 10 or 12 years old and one who was 7, were listed as mulatto. None are identified by name.”
Records appear to show that all but one of the slaves held by Mitch McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers eventually ran away, which was a common occurence of the times.
The Republican did not respond to NBC’s requests for comment on the story, so it remains unclear whether McConnell is aware of his slave-owning ancestry. But it appears that the lawmaker has never commented publicly on the matter, if he does in fact know about it.
A matter that McConnell has commented on publicly is reparations for descendants of African-American slaves.
He said last month: “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea. 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.”
While slavery experts have held that descendants of slave owners should not be held personally responsible for their anscestors’ actions, NBC noted, they do argue that families such as McConnell’s almost necessarily benefited from the slave labor of earlier generations.
“Smaller farms and plantations still benefited enormously from the unpaid labor of enslaved people, which likely helped them build multigenerational wealth,” said Chuck Collins, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank in Washington.
And while many slave owners were compensated after slavery was abolished for their loss of “property,” former slaves received little if any compensation as they sought to begin anew as freed men and women.