Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on Sunday said he was recently given documents showing that he and his wife, Amy, are descendants of slave owners, writing in a Medium post that the legacy of slavery “now has a much more personal connection.”
The post by O’Rourke says his paternal great-great-great grandfather owned two women, Rose and Eliza, in the 1850s and it’s likely his maternal great-great-great grandfather owned slaves in the 1860s. O’Rourke writes that his wife Amy had an ancestor who owned slaves and another who fought in the Confederate Army.
“I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” the former Texas congressman said. “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.”
“As a person, as a candidate for the office of the Presidency, I will do everything I can to deliver on this responsibility,” he added.
O’Rourke’s post appears to be prompted by reporting from The Guardian which published Sunday that O’Rourke and his wife didn’t know of their ancestral ties to slave owners before being contacted by the news outlet.
The Medium post by O’Rourke says he will “continue to support” reparations for slavery — an idea that, for decades, has been largely outside mainstream US political thought.
The issue of reparations has gotten attention in the 2020 Democratic primary with Democratic candidates, including Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, addressing the issue on the campaign trail.
“We all need to know our own story as it relates to the national story, much as I am learning mine,” O’Rourke said. “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.”
Despite large fundraising hauls and early support around his announcement, O’Rourke has struggled in the crowded Democratic primary field. A CNN poll earlier this month found his campaign held just 3% support.