Beto: I'm a Descendant of Slave Owners

2020 candidate writes about details, reiterates support for reparations
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2019 7:21 AM CDT
Beto: My Family Owned Slaves
Rep. Beto O'Rourke stands with his wife, Amy Sanders, at his election night party, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in El Paso, Texas.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Beto O'Rourke has previously backed the idea of reparations for the descendants of slaves, and now the issue just got much more personal for him. In a Medium post, the 2020 candidate reveals that he and his wife, Amy Sanders, descend from slave owners. For example, O'Rourke writes that a paternal great-great-great grandfather owned two women, Rose and Eliza, and a maternal great-great-great grandfather "most likely" owned slaves of his own in the 1860s. His wife has at least one ancestor who owned slaves, and both families supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. O'Rourke says he just became aware of his family's connection to slavery, apparently the result of a story in the Guardian that scoured for the details.

His ancestors "were able to build wealth on the backs and off the sweat of others, wealth that they would then be able to pass down to their children and their children’s children," writes O'Rourke. "In some way, and in some form, that advantage would pass through to me and my children." O'Rourke says the time is overdue for "an important national conversation on slavery and racial injustice," and he ticks off policy proposals in that context, including not just his support for reparations but better funding for schools with mostly minority students. The Hill notes that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas has introduced a bill to form a commission to look into whether black Americans should receive reparations, and many 2020 candidates have backed the idea. (More Beto O'Rourke stories.)

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