On President’s Day We Remember How our Founding Fathers Owned Slaves

As we celebrate President’s Day the thought that four of our first 5 Presidents owned slaves has not gone unnoticed. I’ve been observing how President Ronald Reagan has undergone a major PR, revisionist makeover and could not help but wonder how much of a make over our early Presidents have undergone. BTW we set the record straight on Ronald Reagan with this essay we penned a couple of weeks ago.. Why All of Us Should Celebrate Ronald Reagan Day-Let’s Teach the Kids

It’s no secret that when we learn about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in school, their slave-owning legacies are barely mentioned.  In fact if you bring it up, some so-called patriot types get angry. I found this out a few years ago during an appearance on CNN when engaged in a debate and some far right pundit attempted to extol the virtues and wisdom of the Founding Fathers.. She mentioned George Washington specifically. When I pointed he was a slave owner she almost blew a gasket. I haven’t been back on CNN since.

Its obvious reminding folks of our founding father’s dubious past is a touchy topic. Look at what’s going on in the great state of Tennessee. There you have Tea Party Lawmakers want to remove slavery and its association to Founding fathers from history books.

You have other Tea Party folks like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann attempting to rewrite history by suggesting the Founding Fathers attempted to end slavery. They did nothing of a kind and she got famously schooled by CNN reporter Anderson Cooper for making such erroneous remarks.


No one wants to talk about how slaves were beaten, raped and at the mercy of slave owners. They were property with absolutely no rights and yet we insist on honoring the Founding Fathers on days like President’s Day without fully acknowledging the cruel institution some were a part of.  In addition there was the genocide that many participated in when it came to dealing with Native Americans. Treaties broken, people slaughtered and land taken are all a part of their sordid legacy.

The mantra of many who hold up the founding fathers on president’s Day is Deny, deny deny until people start believing the lies. I’m reminded of this encounter I had during the 2004 RNC in New York City. I came across a brother holding a banner of the Founding Fathers. I asked him about it and things got a little testy. He even called the police..


This President’s Day we should do more than shop at Macy’s for their annual sale.. We should become students of history and try to correct the wrongs of the past. It starts with us being honest about our Founding Fathers.

On a side note this year President’s Day falls on the Feb 21, this was the day Malcolm X was assassinated.. We should remember his legacy today. He’s sadly being written out of history, probably by the same folks who are busy remaking Reagan and removing the word ‘slavery’ from text books.


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35 comments on “On President’s Day We Remember How our Founding Fathers Owned Slaves

  1. Pingback: On President's Day We Remember How our Founding Fathers Owned Slaves (via Davey D's Hip Hop Corner-(The Blog)) « DjAfrican's Blog

  2. My wife just saw Kerry James Marshall’s mural in the atrium at SFMOMA. At first it appears to be just a painting of Jefferson and Washington on their respective plantations. But on closer examination, it shows all the slaves that made their lifestyles possible in the background. Check out the video about it on SFMOMA website.

  3. Yeah, anyone who studies history knows that human beings do pretty f@cked up things to each other. We also passed laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act that discriminated against Chinese, we threw a bunch of innocent Japanese families into camps during WW2, and we also did that whole genocide thing to the Native Americans as we invaded their nation states. Anyone who studies history knows that human beings have a history of doing horrible things to each other.

    But I have to wonder, do blacks hold onto this injustice of discrimination and slavery from over 150 years ago as an excuse for handouts and racism against white people?

    Blacks make up around 13% of the US population but account for around 39% of the people on welfare. And that ties into this defeated/reparations kind of mindset; you might even look at that as a self-perpetuating, glorified, Section 8, 21st century slavery culture.

    Funny. I hear the slavery reparations argument over and over and over.

    I have never, ever, heard a Chinese person complain about the injustices done to their people from 150+ years ago.

    This has been a public service message from the Bill Cosby for President in 2012 committee.

  4. Hawk,
    Don’t normally engage in this type of dialogue because as Davey alluded to, folks get angry. They get angry over facts and history. Racism is a power dynamic, the domination and subordination of a group over a subordinate group. Read Nelly Fuller and Frances Cress Welsing for starters. So in that respect black folks cannot exercise racism against white people because they are a historically oppressed and powerless group. Racism today is manifested through colonialism. Unquestionably, human interaction has been brutal but the european peoples legacy of genocide, rape, murder, plunder, torture, enslavement, theft of lands and cultures is magnificent. If you study colonialism it might help you better understand the stats you cite. In this country, the fundamental binary is black and white so while you don’t hear Chinese complaining, it does not mean they aren’t.

  5. But I have to wonder, do blacks hold onto this injustice of discrimination and slavery from over 150 years ago as an excuse for handouts and racism against white people?

    Hahaha Yes Hawk.. its called payback.. its coming sooner or later..It’s inevitable..askl the Chinese.. in China..

  6. It’s funny how Hawk doesn’t apply that to European Jews. They say never forget. Their whole basis for a homeland is based on a biblical prophecy over 2,000 years. If my math serves me correctly 2,000 years is older than 150 years. Hawk, take that message to the Jewish community and see you get!

  7. “But I have to wonder, do blacks hold onto this injustice of discrimination and slavery from over 150 years ago as an excuse for handouts and racism against white people?”

    I hear ya Hawk. As a Blackmale ,sometime I worry acknowledging our history is coming off as a repeating record, just to complain. But unfortunately Hawk we have to respect our history, soooo many died my friend. And its sad because I know “certain” people can feel uncomfortable when talking about it and make them and their great history look like a**holes haha, but we can’t just dance around it, there by softening the injustice of it. Remember every group of people has gotten goverment reperations and acknowlegement for USA wrongs, Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese EVERYONE basically expects for Blacks.(Well ,Bill Clinton was the first prez to apologize for US wrongs but… dam that long) My grandmother’s grandmother was a freed slaved, died in poverty with no assistants, left in shambles. It’s not complaining its remembering and forgiving.

  8. What Chinese people endured at the hands of the United States isn’t shit compared to what black people have, so it makes perfect sense that they don’t express as many grievances.

  9. “So in that respect black folks cannot exercise racism against white people because they are a historically oppressed and powerless group.”


    So when blacks went around murdering random white strangers, just because they were white, in the Bay Area as part of the zebra killings that wasn’t racism.

    And when the Black Muslim Bakery decided to execute a random guy walking down the street just because he was white that wasn’t racism.


    It’s amazing to have conversations with people who are obviously intelligent but sound like they could be moonlighting for the KKK and are completely justified in explaining their racism.

    “Hahaha Yes Hawk.. its called payback.. its coming sooner or later..It’s inevitable..askl the Chinese.. in China..”

    Dave, I don’t know you well enough to tell if you if were being facetious or not. If that was an honest statement.. well all I can say is I can respect when people are being honest even if it’s being honest in their racism.

    I mentioned that Bill Cosby for president quote because I really liked his comments about this defeated reparation welfare mindset that he saw in blacks. Cosby got a whole world of sh@t thrown at him for his comments but people tend to forget that Cosby grew up in the projects and made himself into that jello guy with the sweaters on TV. I agree with him that this defeated reparation welfare Section 8 mindset is just a bankrupt philosophy and it’ll will do you more harm than good.

  10. Hawk,
    Here is your problem racism didn’t cease after slavery nor has it ended since Barack been the president, but you fail to recognize this fact. Hawk, afet slavery there was a thing called “Jim Crow”, then there was another thing called segration, so until 1964 black people was really free. What you got to understand America have never paid for their crimes that were put on black people. Not one slave owner was ever punish for violated blacks human right. After slavery, when white men were lenching up brothers and all those race riots, back in the early 1900s, most of those white men went unpunished. All those were blacks civil rights and other blacks who were murdered, by white men a few of their ever received and jail time. There are still stuff that happened to blacks by whites in this country. You can say some of this stuff happened in the past, but justice never gets old or out of date.

  11. When Bill Cosby said that black people should start giving their kids whiter names, it reminded me of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, when the older Sioux was telling his kid that it’s a white man’s world, and that converting to Christianity was the only way, etc. Just creepy. I lost all respect for Bill Cosby at that moment.

  12. LOL. Hawk’s exhibit A of black racism is the zebra killings? You’re putting that up against slavery? Ha ha ha ha!

  13. Racism is power. Random acts of individual racial hatred is not power. Slavery and legalized Jim Crow racial segregation was systemic. It was a sanctioned exercise of power. No justification needed. The powerless black folks in SF was no different than the powerless white folks killing black folks during Katrina’s aftermath. Hawk, you seem intelligent . I study this stuff to better understand it because but too many people do not understand racism vs racial hatred(whether overt or covert) and are quick to mislable any act of racial discord as racism. Don’t want to get into a thesis about Cosby(I like his work and respect him) but he plays his neocolonial role very well by blaming poor black folks for their oppression instead of a system that still continues to oppress black people. That is racism.

  14. @hawk, Lets not go tit for tat on racially motivated killings, presently or past cuz you will lose. For every Bill and Oprah that makes it there are 100’s of more talented blacks that don’t cuz they don’t/wont play the game. Why do you quote Bill? Malcolm X also wanted blacks to be more self reliant and independent, why dont you admire him? Farrakhan also wants this, Why not admire him? You heard a sound bite of a black person chastizing the black community and you ran with it like most others who have a distaste for blacks did but would never say it directly.

  15. Davey thanks for putting up this article. Even “good ole” Patrick, “Give me liberty, or give me death” Henry owned slaves and had one of the biggest plantations in the south. As far as reparations is concerned, it was actually proposed by a white man in Congress in the 1800s, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens in 1867, but it was shot down viciously. Everyone except us has received reparations, even White Jewish Survivors of the Holocaust. I remember watching Deutsche Welle 5 or more years ago, and seeing the proceedings in the Bundestag that led to this. While half of me is for reparations for us, I also feel that NO amount of money could ever compensate for all the bullshit we put up with, then and now. I also long ago stopped expecting text book committees to include full truth in school textbooks, as I’ve been building my own library to learn, and teach myself, and others from. United States aKKKademia will NEVER fully or truthfully teach anything that goes against their white nationalist hegemonic myopic world view. Jefferson, Washington, and them other dead slaveowners ain’t my founding fathers, and in the words of Ice Cube, Uncle Sam ain’t my &$!(/#}{][*% uncle!

  16. bearwidnezz, don’t forget that Jessie and Al are as critical of violent and misogynistic hip hop lyrics as anyone, yet for some reason the Bill Cosby fanatics give Bill all of the credit for speaking out against that, too. What is it they like so much about Bill? Must be those sweaters.

  17. The problem with the argument is that the lives of the FFs are taken out of the context of when they lived. Sure, if you put Thomas Jefferson and his slaves in 2011 his writings are pure hypocrisy and he is a beast. But in the 1700’s he was among the most enlightened humans on the planet. In the 1700s 99.9 percent of cultures practiced some form of slavery or indentured servitude. What Jefferson and the FFs, along with the French revolutionaries of that time, did was a critical step in bringing individual freedoms into reality. Without them starting the dialogue seeking to define individual liberties there wouldn’t be a framework for abolishonists to build on.

    To me it’s the latter presidents, post cotton Gin and industrial revolution, that tolerated slavery and Jim Crow that are way more evil as they were making political calculations knowing full well the world had changed.

    But seriously, is presidents day the day to bring it up? I think that’s where the anger comes from. Don’t crap on the parade. It would be like some newspaper running a cover story about MLKs affairs on MLK day. If I know someone is trying to make me mad I will comply.

  18. B-Lo thats what presidents day means for me.. celebrating the accomplishments of slave owners.. If u owned humans as property you were not enlightened..you were barbaric and yes I been raining on presiodents day since first grade when I asked my teacher about why we were celebrating the birthday of a slave owner..what I got was a tired excuse about how brave he was.. bravery would’ve been what John Adams did.. Him and his wife stepped to the slaveowners and as a result have damn near been written out of history..

    Jefferson was a rapist.. no defense for him at all

  19. @B_lo tim

    In the words of Gordon Gekko “This is not a democracy, this is all about free trade”. Individual freedom where did you get that bullshit from.

    All they did was copy some masonic garbage. Democracy didn’t start with America, you need to brush up on your history.

  20. B lo Tim,

    If our founding fathers were merely products of their time for owning slaves, then certainly the British and the French were just products of their time for trying to take America away from our founding fathers, right?

    Also, in the poorest parts of the Islamic world, those participating in jihad are just products of their time, right? I mean, they’re not allowed access to the free world, free press, literature, etc. So they can’t be expected to live up to the standards of those in the free world. So they’re no less evil than the American founding fathers were, right? Aren’t they just products of their time?

  21. ” If u owned humans as property you were not enlightened”

    Washington was a lot more aware and educated that most people of that time by virtue of the role he was in and the legacy he inherited (same with the rest of them). In the Wikipedia article you posted there is a quote where he says he WISHED for the abolition of slavery, but as a policy measure ( not as a personal change in his ownership).

    The European “enlightenment” was a trend in assumptions about people not a grandois religious claim. The constitution for all its flaws did incrementally lay the foundation for the idea that all men are created equal. Once a bench mark like that is set and established it is a very very positive gain. This doesn’t mean that these men should be idolized ,white washed, or in my view even given holidays, but they shouldn’t be lumped into the same bucket as this dumb lady in the youtube video.

  22. “If u owned humans as property you were not enlightened”

    I agree completely (for once). Some will point out that some of the founding fathers freed some of their slaves, but that is no excuse.

    If you own slaves and do not free ALL of them, you are not someone worth admiring, imitating, or celebrating.

    No exceptions.

    Does anyone disagree?

  23. “do blacks hold onto this injustice of discrimination and slavery from over 150 years ago as an excuse for handouts and racism against white people?”

    uh, no. racism has been institutionalized and is still going on today. just look at all the colleges and universities founded by slaveowners. all your statistical data proves is that capitalism underdeveloped black america. if you want to talk about people exploiting the system, let’s talk about Mormons on welfare, who have SUVs for each of their wives, paid for by the government.

    as for black on white racism, that’s a straw man argument. i live in Oakland and if your argument was correct, i shouldnt be able to go a day without seeing a racist assault on white folks by black people.

    two days ago, i attended a city council committee meeting on gang injunctions–against Latinos–which was protested by whites, blacks and asians, as well as Latinos.

    more to the point, people who use this argument are usually trying to justify their own racism against black people. hawk, you’re no exception to this rule.

    but you’re not just racist against blacks, you’re racist against Asians too–and probably all non-white ethnicities as well.

    its part of historical fact that chinese faced a lot of discriminations. they were brought here to work on the railroads, but not allowed to bring their wives with them. do you think they didn’t complain about this hardship? and if they did, do you think they talked about it, in English, with white people?

    the fact is, though, that black people were brought here as slaves. the Chinese were indentured servants who came here voluntarily. America has yet to fully address the historical legacy of slavery, and, worse, we have elected representatives trying to pretend it didnt happen.

    as for you, hawk, you are are a nominee for Most Ignorant Internet post of 2011–and that’s saying something.

  24. one other point i want to make is that black people speaking out against injustice led directly to other oppressed people doing the same thing. it’s not just “complaining about shit that happened 150 years ago.” perhaps, if full reparations had been paid and racism no longer existed in America, you would have a point. but if that were the case, there would be nothing to complain about. that’s why your argument is weak.

  25. Yup, I condemn then all: Thomas Jefferson? Mohamed?

    I don’t care how many people tout your greatness.

    I reject the teachings of both men.

  26. i think the point Davey was trying to make is that by recognizing president’s day as a holiday, we are celebrating the legacy of slavery whether we know it or not.

    everything else generated by this discussion is just a byproduct of that fact.

  27. He was the same person, he just made a change in his life and reinvented himself and did some things people admired.

    It doesn’t change the fact that he was a pimp who pointed guns at people.

    Just like the so-called “founding fathers” had a part of their lives that were admirable and a part that was disgusting.

    This doesn’t mean I agree with presidential holidays. I don’t.

  28. @Kyocera: at the risk of briefly agreeing with our host once again, I don’t agree that the “founding fathers” had a part of their lives that were admirable and a part that was disgusting.

    Rather, some founding fathers, such as Ben Franklin, are admirable. Others, such as Jefferson, invite a much more thoroughgoing and thoughtful criticism than most are willing to give them.

    I have deep, deep problems with Jefferson’s ‘deism,’ — his attempt to abstract faith into some kind of dry, intellectual exercise — as well as all of his so called ‘enlightenment philosophies.’

    His hypocrisy shines a light on much much deeper errors in his thinking.

  29. Oh, and did I mention he owned slaves? There’s got to be a lot wrong when we’re talking about someone who owned slaves. And yet people act as if that’s something that can be compartmentalized, and go on to praise his ideas uncritically. You can’t do that.

  30. For a thoroughgoing critique of Jefferson’s cracked ideas, I’d recommend reactionary philosopher Joseph de Maistre, for starters.

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