When Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden recently called out Donald Trump as the first racist president, he was way off the mark. Of course Trump has uttered countless remarks that can be deemed racists, but there have been many other presidents guilty of making racist remarks as well.
Surviving documentation shows that at least 12 presidents were slave owners at some point during their lives, according to The White House Historical Association. These include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Johnson, and Ulysses S. Grant.
“Many of the early presidents, George Washington to Zachary Taylor, owned Black slaves and held power when African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos did not have the right to vote or serve on juries and could be refused service in public accommodation,” The Progressive reported. “They often repeated racist views that were commonly held in their times, even when challenged by scholars or civil rights leaders.”
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Nearly every U.S. president could be tagged as racist, according to Margaret Kimberley, author of the book “Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents.”
“So these are the facts of the story… I think it’s important to start speaking in this way: to tell people that Lincoln isn’t who we thought,” Kimberley said in an interview published by Counterpunch. “That the Kennedy brothers had to be dragged to support civil rights, even in the small ways they did. That Woodrow Wilson was an open racist. That even those presidents who were not slaveholders dare not oppose the forces known as the slave power — the slaveocracy”
Here are 10 racist quotes by U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Trump and more.
There may be too many racist remarks from Trump to choose from. There was the time he described a majority-Black congressional district as a “rat- and rodent-infested mess.”
Then there was the time he said on Albany’s Talk 1300 in April 2011, “I have a great relationship with the Blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the Blacks.”
How about the time he called Black people lazy, Politico reported. “I have black guys counting my money…I hate it,” Trump told John R. O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, according O’Donnell’s account in his 1991 book, “Trumped!” “The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day.”
Trump, according to O’Donnell, added, “‘Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that.”
Thomas Jefferson became the country’s third president. His racist history goes back before that. Jefferson may have written in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” but in his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia” published in 1785, the slave-owning president expressed his view about Black people.
According to Jefferson, Black people were cursed with “a very strong and disagreeable odor” and were incapable of producing art and poetry. And though he had a sexual relationship with at least one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, he wrote, Black people should be deported because Black people and whites could not live together peacefully, AP News reported.
Andrew Jackson was a slaveholder from the South. Before he became the seventh president, he offered $50 for the return of a runaway slave in an 1804 advertisement. He promised an extra $10 “for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of 300.” According to Jon Meacham’s 2008 book “American Lion: Andrew Jackson and the White House,” Jackson owned around 150 slaves and freed none of them in his will.
He called abolitionist pamphlets urging Black equality “unconstitutional and wicked,” AP News reported.
Before he was president, the Virginia-born Woodrow Wilson was president of Princeton University. He worked to keep Black people out of the school.
As the president of the U.S., the Democrat refused to reverse segregation in civil service, though he got to the White House with the support of some African-American men, AP News reported.
In 1915, Wilson received backlash when he screened the racist film “The Birth of a Nation” at the White House. The silent movie retold Reconstruction through the eyes of the Ku Klux Klan, with the KKK portrayed as heroes and African Americans as uncivilized.
Democrat Lyndon Johnson stepped into the role of the presidency in 1963 after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. While he sought to push a civil rights bill amid demonstrations by African Americans, Johnson often used racist epithets to describe African Americans including those he had appointed to key positions.
Republican Richard Nixon also regularly used racist epithets while in office in private conversations, AP News reported.
“We’re going to (place) more of these little Negro bastards on the welfare rolls at $2,400 a family,” Nixon once said about what he saw as lax work requirements. Nixon also made derogatory comments about Jews, Mexican Americans, Italian Americans and Irish Americans.
When Ronald Reagan was the governor of California in 1971, he phoned the White House to speak with President Nixon and during the conversation, called African people “monkeys,” which sparked laughter from the president, The New York Times reported.
“To see those monkeys from those African countries damn them,” Reagan said. “They are still uncomfortable wearing shoes.” Nixon can be heard laughing on the Oct. 26, 1971 tape. The transcript was revealed years later when it was released by the National Archives and published by The Atlantic.
Reagan became the 40th U.S. president in 1981.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton took a racial jibe at Barack Obama in 2008, saying “this guy would have been carrying our bags,” NDTV reported. Clinton allegedly made the remark to Sen. Ted Kennedy as he tried to convince Kennedy to endorse his wife, Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s opponent for the Democratic nomination.
Then only days before President Obama was nominated for re-election, Clinton said, “A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee,” according to the book “Game Change,” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.
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During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order to have hundreds of thousands of people of Japanese descent––including 80,000 U.S. citizens–– incarcerated in concentration camps. The U.S. was at war with Japan. Roosevelt said the order was about putting “dangerous or undesirable aliens or citizens” in “concentration camps,” Newsweek reported.
While discussing the desegregation of schools, President Dwight D. Eisenhower told Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren in 1954 that white Southerners “are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes,” Newsweek reported.