Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Great-Great-Grandfathers Owned 14 Slaves. He’s Opposed To Reparations

Written by Dana Sanchez
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, joined from left by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., listens to a reporter’s question following a Senate policy luncheon, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knew about his ancestors’ slave-owning past, he never mentioned it in any known news articles.

In his 2016 memoir, “The Long Game,” McConnell wrote about descending from “a long line of hardworking and often colorful McConnells.” He talked about James McConnell from Ireland who fought for the colonies in the American Revolution. But there was no mention of slave owners.

It turns out that two of McConnell’s great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama — most of them female, according to the county “Slave Schedules” in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

This revelation comes thanks to investigative reporting by NBC News, which searched ancestry and census records following the June 19 hearings on reparations by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

McConnell (R-Ky) attracted a lot of attention on the eve of the historic hearings when he told reporters he was opposed to reparations.

“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 on June 18. “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.”

NBC News made phone calls and emailed McConnell’s office, asking if the senator knew that his great-great-grandfathers were slave owners. The office did not respond to those requests.

Slavery experts have said that families descended from slave owners, like McConnell’s, probably passed down generational wealth to future offspring from the labor of slaves that enriched farm families. This has been an argument of reparations supporters, according to NBC News. It’s the argument that descendants of slaves were never compensated for the economic benefit their forebears made to white families.

The way people think about racial inequality in the U.S. is fundamentally flawed, according to Duke University economist William A. “Sandy” Darity.

Much of that reasoning requires buying into a view that Black people are somehow dysfunctional. The evidence does not support that narrative, Darity said in an interview by economist Glenn Loury on “The Glenn Show” on at Brown University.

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More accurate is the narrative about the structure of U.S. society and the systemic ways in which it has restricted, constrained, and, in some case, destroyed the lives of Black people, Darity said.

Darity’s proposed wealth-gap solution — Baby Bonds — is not reparations. It’s a trust fund or endowment made to every newborn infant, graduated on the basis of the wealth of the child’s family. Available when the child turns 18, it could be used as a downpayment on an apartment or to subsidize college or start a business.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is a big fan of baby bonds, and they could help him achieve two goals for the price of one — reducing wealth inequality between Blacks and whites and fuel his run for the White House.