Obama Descendant of First Slave?
Since first starting out on the election trail, President Barack Obama’s family history has been a subject of great interest. In this week’s news, Obama’s family tree has become even more noteworthy as genealogist claim to trace his descent from the American Colonies first documented slave.
The Roots of Slavery
The commencement of slavery in the US began in Virginia with the arrival of 20 Africans aboard a Dutch Man – o – War. At its inception, slavery was not legally recognized and the status of Africans was documented as indentured servants. This can be seen in the colonial court records of Virginia in a document dating from 1625 that notes “Antonio the Negro” as a servant.
In those early times, there was no distinction between black and white indentured servants. As a result, it was common for black and white indentured servants in addition to “Poor whites” to associate closely, working side by side, becoming friends and often intermarrying.
In the year 1640 one black and two white indentured servants ran away from the Virginia plantation where they worked. Eventually, the tree escapees were captured and returned to the plantation. Upon their return, the Virginia General Court passed a sentence of four additional years of servitude onto the white runaways while African John Punch received a punishment of life in servitude, making him the first (documented) black slave in American history.
The Ancestral Connection
Genealogist conducting research for Ancestry.com claim to have traced the descent of the American Commander and Chief to Punch; surprisingly through Obama’s maternal white line. The president’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham is reported to have a line of descent to white landowners in the Virginia colonies.
The genealogists contend that it is through a Dunham woman and John Punch that President Obama’s line descends. If their findings are accurate, Punch is Obama’s 11th great grandfather.
If this is true, there is a certain poetic justice in that a descendant of the first black slave was to become the first black president.