< Has America Already Had a Black President?

Has America Already Had a Black President?


In recent times, there has been widespread discussion about the possibility of America electing its first black president. However, some individuals argue that this historic event has already occurred in the past. Over the years, rumors and amateur historians have claimed that several former American presidents, including Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower, Calvin Coolidge, and even Abraham Lincoln, had black ancestry. Despite the lack of concrete evidence to support these claims, the persistence of these rumors raises important questions about America’s racial attitudes, culture, and history. This article explores the reasons behind the existence and endurance of these claims and discusses the potential implications they would have had if proven true. Additionally, it examines the possibility of using genetic testing to verify the ancestry of these past presidents.

Background on Warren Harding

One of the most prominent examples discussed in this context is Warren Harding. Even before his presidential campaign, Harding faced persistent rumors that he had black ancestors. These rumors varied, with some suggesting that his great-grandmother was a fugitive slave or of African descent, while others focused on his father or other family members. Although there was no solid evidence to support these rumors, they gained traction among Harding’s opponents and even within the communities where he grew up.

The Impact of Black Ancestry

The prevailing racial views of the time would have defined Warren Harding as black if the rumors of his black ancestry were true. This raises questions about how his political career and social standing would have been affected. During that era, the one-drop rule was in effect, meaning that even a suggestion of having “negro blood” would have invalidated Harding’s presidency. The rumors were fueled by a desire to discredit Harding’s candidacy, and there were even suggestions that his own Republican party spread these rumors to gain the support of black voters in northern cities. The political climate of the time, characterized by racial violence and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, further shaped the significance of these allegations.

Edward Ball’s Research on Racial Mixing

The author Edward Ball, known for his book “Slaves in the Family,” has extensively researched racial mixing among his own ancestors. His work sheds light on the connections between blacks and whites in America’s history. Ball acknowledges that passing for white or jumping the fence was a possibility for African-Americans seeking to escape the harsh realities of Jim Crow segregation. He estimates that around 50,000 African-Americans chose to live as white between 1900 and 1930, often adopting new ethnic identities such as Italian-American or Greek-American. These decisions were respected by black communities, who understood the motivations behind them.

The Sally Hemings Case and Genetic Testing

Another historical example discussed is Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings. For a long time, historians refused to believe the rumors of their affair until DNA evidence confirmed their descendants’ connection to Jefferson. Given this precedent, genetic testing is proposed as a potential method to establish the truth behind the claims of black ancestry in past presidents. While it is highly unlikely that Warren Harding’s remains would be exhumed for testing, the possibility of testing the descendants of his known ancestors is raised. This approach has been successful in other cases, such as the identification of the remains of the Russian Czar Nicholas II through DNA testing.

Historical Context and Pride

The persistence of these rumors and the interest surrounding them can be attributed to various factors. Firstly, interracial relationships have always fascinated people, especially considering their roots in forced sexual relationships during slavery. Secondly, claiming white presidents as black may stem from a sense of pride and inclusion. By acknowledging the possibility of black ancestry in prominent figures, it challenges the notion that black people have been an exception in American political history. It serves as a reminder that black individuals have played a significant role in shaping America’s past, including its presidency. This debate also highlights the ongoing struggle to fully understand and come to terms with America’s racial history.


The claims of America having already had a black president are intriguing and have sparked widespread discussion. While the rumors surrounding Warren Harding and other past presidents remain largely unsubstantiated, they offer valuable insights into America’s racial attitudes, culture, and history. The concept of passing for white, the impact of the one-drop rule, and the historical context of racial violence all contribute to the significance of these claims. Although genetic testing could potentially provide answers, the practicality of such testing for past presidents is uncertain. Regardless, the fascination with exploring America’s racial past and the connections between blacks and whites continues to shape public interest in this topic.

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  • Warren Harding
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Ku Klux Klan