Genealogists say they have found evidence that President Joe Biden’s paternal ancestors owned enslaved people. Their reported finding is detailed in an adapted excerpt from Politico correspondent Ben Schreckinger’s upcoming book “The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power”.
Alexander Bannerman, a genealogist in West Virginia, and lineage expert Gary Boyd Roberts say Biden’s ancestors owned enslaved people in Maryland in the 1800s per census records and slave schedules they found. Genealogist Bannerman worked with Roberts to put together Biden’s genealogy for the winter 2021 issues of American Ancestors magazine after the 2020 presidential election.
Bannerman told Schreckinger that during their research, they found that Biden’s great-great-great-grandfather Jesse Robinett enslaved two people in Allegany County, Maryland, citing the 1850 US federal census. Bannerman said another great-great-great-grandfather, Thomas Randle, enslaved a 14-year-old boy in Baltimore County in 1850. Randle and his family moved elsewhere in Baltimore County in 1860. They owned a single male slave at that time, according to census records sighted by Bannerman.
Biden, who has often touted his Irish Catholic roots, has a family link to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, according to Bannerman. The researcher explained Biden’s ancestor Allen Robanet had a distant tie to Varina Anne Banks Howell, the wife of Confederate President Davis.
Bannerman and Roberts’ published genealogy does not include Biden’s ancestral ties to slavery, with the authors arguing that it is not uncommon for Americans with colonial-era roots to have enslaved people linked to their family’s history. What’s more, Bannerman said Biden’s family records showed “not a lot of ancestors, and not a lot of slaves.”
The White House is yet to respond to the claims. But this is not the first time that Biden’s lineage is being traced back to slave ownership. Ahead of the 2020 election, a photo was shared on social media showing what people alleged was Biden’s great-grandfather. The photo came with the text “Joe Biden’s great grandfather Joseph J. Biden (1828-1880) was a slave-owner and fought for the Confederate States of America”.
This was later proved false. The man in the photo was identified as Richard Young Bennett, a member of the Confederate army.
In recent times, however, historical census records have shown that several public figures, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), had ancestors who owned slaves.