Mitch McConnell’s Slave-Owning Ancestors Could Complicate Reparations Debate
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is descended from slave owners, according to recent reports in the media. The investigation into McConnell’s ancestry comes amid a continuing debate on reparations for slavery and his public opposition to the idea.
Two of McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers were slave holders living in Alabama in the 19th century and they owned at least 14 slaves. This should not be an especially surprising fact: many Americans have ancestors who owned slaves, especially in the south. McConnell is the senator for Kentucky.
The debate about reparations came to the fore recently when House Democrats held hearings on the issue. McConnell dismissed the concept of reparations at the time.
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea,” McConnell said.
“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 reparations are unlikely to pass Congress while there is a Republican majority in the Senate, McConnell’s family history could complicate matters for him. Even if he wasn’t aware of his family’s slave-owning past, he will now find it more difficult to speak out against reparations.
While no-one now living can be held personally responsible for slavery, reparations campaigners say its’ effects are still being felt by African-Americans. McConnell’s family history is bad optics for reparations opponents. A descendant of slave owners is not the best person to argue against reparations.