News of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ancestors owning slaves reportedly has not changed the Kentucky Republican’s opposition to reparations.
He told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday that both he and former President Barack Obama have opposed reparations and they “both are the descendent of slave owners.”
McConnell’s two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama, according to county “Slave Schedules” NBC News obtained.
The slave schedules are from the 1850 and 1860 censuses, and they revealed that all but two of the slaves were female, according to the news outlet.
Obama, whose mother’s ancestors were slave owners, opposed reparations on the 2008 presidential campaign when he answered a NAACP questionnaire, according to CNN.
“The legacy and stain of slavery are immeasurable; nothing, including reparations, can fully compensate,” Obama says on the questionnaire.
He adds that he would prefer to focus on issues that will directly address the continued legacy of slavery.
McConnell’s opposition has been more recent.
“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago for whom none of us currently living are responsible is a good idea,” he told reporters when questioned on video June 18.
“We 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,” McConnell said then. “I think we’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that.”
He also added that figuring out exactly who to compensate in awarding reparations would be “pretty hard.”
“We’ve had waves of immigrants as well who have come to the country and experienced dramatic discrimination of one kind or another,” McConnell said. “So no I don’t think reparations are a good idea.”
The issue of reparations came before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution in a hearing June 19.
At the hearing, which was the first of its kind, author Ta-Nehisi Coates argued against McConnell that the United States was still paying heirs of Civil War soldiers “well into this century.”
Coates said when slavery ended, “this country could have extended its hallowed principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all, regardless of color.”
“But America had other principles in mind,” Coates said.
His Atlantic magazine feature “The Case for Reparations,” is credited for inspiring renewed interest in restorative justice for the descendants of slaves.
In the article he states:
“Broach the topic of reparations today and a barrage of questions inevitably follows: Who will be paid? How much will they be paid? Who will pay? But if the practicalities, not the justice, of reparations are the true sticking point, there has for some time been the beginnings of a solution.
“For the past 25 years, Congressman John Conyers Jr., who represents the Detroit area, has marked every session of Congress by introducing a bill calling for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for ‘appropriate remedies,'” Coates said.
He argues in his essay that that seems like a fitting place to start.