President Joe Biden’s 19th century ancestors owned enslaved Africans, according to a West Virginia-based genealogist.
Genealogist Alexander Bannerman and lineage expert Gary Boyd Roberts began working on the first complete, authoritative genealogy of Biden last fall.
Bannerman’s findings show that two of Biden’s ancestors owned three enslaved Africans.
His great-great-great-grandfather on his paternal side, Jesse Robinett, was listed as owing two slaves in Allegany County, Maryland, in the 1800 census.
Thomas Randle, another Biden great-great-great-grandfather, also owned a 14-year-old male slave in Baltimore County, Maryland, 1850 census data shows.
Bannerman discussed the findings for an article published in Politico Magazine, and said it’s not uncommon for Americans with colonial-era roots on the continent to have ancestors who enslaved people. He said Biden’s ties to slave owners are somewhat modest. “Not a lot of ancestors, and not a lot of slaves,” he said.
Bannerman also noted a distant tie between Biden and Varina Anne Banks Howell, the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, through his ancestor Allen Robanet.
The findings are included an an upcoming book by journalist and author Ben Schreckinger called “The Bidens: Inside the First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power.”
Last year, following the death of George Floyd, a meme circulated online showing a man purported to be Biden’s great-grandfather Joseph J. Biden. The meme, first posted to Facebook on June 17, alleged that the man owned slaves and fought for the Confederacy. The image originated from an August 2008 blog post from after then presidential candidate Barack Obama chose Biden as his running mate.
USA Today fact-checked the claim and found it to be false, citing that Biden’s great-grandfather’s name was George T. Biden, not Joseph J. Biden, and that he wasn’t born until after the Civil War ended.
On his maternal side, Biden’s great-grandfather was named Edward F. Blewitt, and would have been six years old when the Civil war ended.
The man in the photo is Richard Young Bennett, who did fight for the Confederacy but isn’t related to Biden.
Although USA Today claimed in the fact-check that “no databases found the Biden surname to have owned slaves or fought in the Confederacy,” a fact-check of the image by Snopes mentioned it’s possible Biden is a descendant of the Maryland Robinette family, which owned slaves.
The White House didn’t respond to Politico’s request for comment.