Beto O’Rourke Admits Ancestors Owned Slaves

Former U.S. Representative and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke listens to a question during a town hall event, April 17, 2019 in Alexandria, Virginia. O'Rourke took numerous questions from the audience on a wide variety of topics. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Sunday, failed Texas senate candidate Beto O’Rourke sought to stir his fading presidential hopes with a blog post published on Medium.

“A paternal great-great-great grandfather of mine, Andrew Cowan Jasper, owned these two women in the 1850s,” O’Rourke wrote in a post entitled “Rose and Eliza,” explaining:

There are also records showing that a maternal great-great-great grandfather, Frederick Williams, most likely owned slaves in the 1860s (“most likely,” because we are not certain that the Frederick Williams who is my ancestor and the Frederick Williams who owned slaves are the same person, but there’s enough circumstantial data to lead me to conclude that it’s likely).

Of his wife, O’Rourke said “records also showed that Amy had an ancestor who owned slaves and another who was a member of the Confederate Army.”

“I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” O’Rourke wrote. “That only increases the urgency I feel to help change this country so that it works for those who have been locked-out of — or locked-up in — this system.”

O’Rourke then offered his approach to providing some level of repair to the historic damage. First, that he would “address $23 billion in underfunding for minority-majority public schools” and “ensuring equal pay, [while] deploying capital to minority- and women-owned businesses.”

The would-be president addressed small business funds for the aforementioned groups, universal healthcare, and sweeping criminal justice reform. Finally, he voiced support for reparations — “beginning with an important national conversation on slavery and racial injustice.”

“We all need to know our own story as it relates to the national story, much as I am learning mine,” he concluded. “It is only then, I believe, that we can take the necessary steps to repair the damage done and stop visiting this injustice on the generations that follow ours.”

O’Rourke’s post comes in the wake of an attempt to tie Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition to reparations to his family history of slave ownership. McConnell countered by citing that former President Barack Obama’s ancestors owned slaves as well. “We both oppose reparations and we both are the descendants of slaveholders,” he said.

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