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‘Wonder How They Come to Have Brown Children’: Supporters Back Angela Davis After Right-Wingers Say She Owes Reparations for Slaveowner Ancestors

Critics of former Black militant activist and scholar Angela Davis say she should pay other Black people reparations after it was revealed that her ancestors were among the very first Europeans to colonize North America.

After the airing of a recent episode of Henry Louis Gates’ hit PBS show, “Finding Our Roots,” now in its ninth season, it was revealed that Davis’ ancestors were on the Mayflower, fought in the American Revolution, and owned enslaved Africans.

The 79-year-old Davis says she knew she had white family members on her mother’s side but not on her father’s side. He never revealed he was half-white.

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 31: American political activist, academic and author Angela Davis reads a statement during NPR Music’s Turning the Tables Live: The Motherlode as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors summer concert series at Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center on July 31, 2019, in New York City. (Photo by Sean Drakes/Getty Images)

“I always imagined my ancestors as the people who were enslaved,” Davis said during the show.

In one scene of the episode that also featured Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson, Gates shares that Davis’ mother, who was adopted, had a high-society white father. Davis’ grandfather was a senator and respected lawyer in Alabama in the early 1900s, with a white wife and other children (not including her mother).

She also learned that her fourth great-grandfather was a patriot that served in the Revolutionary War. After showing her documents, including a muster roll, where he is assigned the task as a drummer for his regime, the Harvard professor and nationally recognized genealogist asked her, “When you were studying the American Revolution, did it ever occur to you that you could have an ancestor?”

She quickly responded, “Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”

He followed up, “What do you do with that information … Now, that you know that you are descended from someone who did in fact serve the American Revolution?”

The startled activist was at a loss for words but said she believes “the American Revolution should have gone further than it actually did.”

But once gaining her composure, she said, she was “glad” to receive this information.

“I’m remembering that so many people have called those of us who fight (who tried to fight) against racism and who have visions of a more radical democracy as un-American,” she finally said. “I’ve always insisted that the best way to pay tribute to this country is to try to change it and allow it to develop into the kind of place where anyone can be free, equal, and happy.”

Adding, “So, there’s a sense in which I identify with the identity of the patriot, but it has to be a radical identification. The most American thing you can do is to fight against injustice” and act like the patriots of the American Revolution believed they were doing.

This ancestor also owned six enslaved people.

When asked what did she think her mother would have said about her third great-grandfather owning human beings, she said she believes she would have said, “She would have probably said, ‘It’s good to know my genetic background. It is good to know my ancestry. But those are not necessarily my people.”

On Twitter, conservative trolls took glee in ignoring her effort to link her views on justice with the ideals of freedom for all or her discomfort of knowing that her ancestors were owners and not just owned, and immediately mocked her for her mixed heritage. Some even suggested she pay reparations to the families of the Black people that her ancestors owned.

One Twitter user with the moniker @Dumpsterfire tweeted, “Marxist Professor Angela Davis, Who Teaches That America Was Built By Racist Colonizers, Finds Out Her Ancestors Was On The Mayflower She’s also descended from a slave owner. Father’s side is a pilgrim. Mother’s side is a slave owner. Looks like Angela Davis owes some reparations.”

“It gets better. She’s also descended from a slave owner. On her father’s side is a pilgrim. On her mother’s side is a slave owner. Looks like Angela Davis owes some reparations,” Conservative talking head Matt Walsh added.

Statistics show the average African-American in the United States has at least 24 percent European DNA, usually connected to white slave owners breeding and raping the enslaved Black women that they considered property.

According to a Pacific Standard Magazine, a team of researchers at McGill University in Montreal “found that most of the European DNA among blacks today probably entered the African-American gene pool long before the Civil War, when the vast majority of blacks in the U.S. were slaves living in the South.”

“The genetic patterns observed by the researchers suggest that for at least a century before the Civil War, there was ongoing admixture between blacks and whites. After slavery ended, this interracial mixing dropped off steeply,” it continues. “The implication of these findings won’t be surprising to anyone: Widespread sexual exploitation of slaves before the Civil War strongly influenced the genetic make-up of essentially all African Americans alive today.”

FranzDuke tweeted that “The Angela Davis discourse is incredibly stupid.”

“Her Mayflower ancestors owned slaves and raped their slaves to produce her more direct ancestors. This is the horrifying origin story for most of us. Where the hell do y’all think you got last names like Smith and Jones from?” she wrote.

With this in mind, one Twitter user mockingly said, “Angela Davis is not descended from a raped slave, as far as anyone knows. Both of her grandfathers were white, and they were both consensual relationships. Angela Davis is descended from slavers the same way any common yt you see on the street is, lol.”

Others were just not having the conversation at all.

The Boy with the Purple Socks used a meme of Africa Miranda saying “Course You’re An Expert” to accompany his caption, “People coming for Angela Davis & acting like they can school her on race relations was not on my 2023 bingo card. But peak twitter behavior. Yep. Y’all know more than the scientists about the vaccine & y’all know more than THEE Angela Davis when it comes to race in America.”

The “And Still I Rise” episode debuted on PBS on Tuesday, Feb. 21. and continues to be trending news on social media days later.

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