Fact Check: NO Evidence Joe Biden's Family Owned Slaves Or That His Great-Grandfather Fought For The Confederacy

Hoax Alert

  • by: Eric Ferkenhoff
Fact Check: NO Evidence Joe Biden's Family Owned Slaves Or That His Great-Grandfather Fought For The Confederacy No Evidence

Did Joe Biden's family own slaves and did his Great-Grandfather Biden fight for the Confederacy? No, there is no evidence that either is true. The former vice president's Great-Grandfather Biden was not born until 1867, two years after the end of the U.S. Civil War. His father Joseph Biden -- the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's great-great-grandfather -- lived in Maryand, a Union state, his whole life and there is no record in the database of Confederate or Union soldiers of his having served. Maryland was a slavery state, but there is no record in the Maryland slave holder database of him owning slaves. The maternal side of Biden's family immigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania, where slavery was outlawed, just a decade before the war. The photo purportedly showing the elder Biden as a rebel soldier is traced by to a webpage about a Mississippi regiment.

The claim can be found in a post (archived here) shared on Facebook on June 21, 2020. The post is a meme featuring a monochrome photo of a soldier with a rifle. The text reads:

Joe Biden's family owned African slaves... Joe Biden's great-grandfather Joseph J. Biden (1828-1880) was a slave-owner and fought for the Confederate States of America.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Jun 23 19:35:23 2020 UTC)

Here is a screenshot of the meme:

Biden grandfather meme.jpg

The earliest version of the claim appeared in a blog named TRUTH FIRST posted on August 28, 2008, soon after Barack Obama chose the Delaware senator to be his vice presidential running mate. The TRUTH FIRST entry gave no supporting evidence of the slave-owner and Confederacy claims.

But the photo also appeared in an online history article about a Mississippi regiment, apparently The 2nd Mississippi of Evander Law's Brigade.

2nd Miss.jpg

The article does not identify the solider in the picture, nor does it mention "Biden" anywhere.

Another Facebook post from June 22 is found here, on the page "NEVER Another Democrat EVER:" It went further, reading:

Joe Biden's family owned African slaves - TRUE...
FACT - Joe Biden's family owned African slaves. Joe Biden's great-grandfather Joseph J. Biden (1828 - 1880) was a slave-owner and fought for the Confederate States of America
In 1975, Biden scoffed at the idea of the country needing to address slavery and its legacy, stating, "I don't feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I'll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago." So go ahead BLM do what you do best...attack this slave owner family!

The claim also appeared in an Instagram post from June 23, 2020, found here that looked like this:

View this post on Instagram

Apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

A post shared by QBAMAGATE (@qbamagate) on

There is no evidence that Biden's family ever fought on the side of Confederates, or that they owned slaves. In fact, a search of a database of Civil War soldiers makes no mention of a Joseph J. Biden. In this article on Medium from February 16 about Biden's mother's side of the family, there is also no mention of slavery or the Confederacy. Nor does this piece on the presidential candidate from Biography.com. And neither does a profile of Biden in the Baltimore Sun from 2008.

And last, a database of slave owners here shows no record of a Joseph J. Biden holding slaves in Maryland, where Biden's family lived.

Here, in fact, appears to be the actual obit for Joseph Biden from the Baltimore American and Commercial Appeal in 1895:


Note that the date of death is different -- 1895 versus 1880 -- from the meme. Also, according to this site, his great-great grandfather was Joseph J. Biden and died in 1895.

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  Eric Ferkenhoff

Managing Editor Eric Ferkenhoff has been a reporter, editor and professor for 27 years, working chiefly out of the Midwest and now the South. Focusing on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, education and politics, Ferkenhoff has won several journalistic and academic awards and helped start a fact-checking project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he continues to teach advanced reporting. Ferkenhoff also writes and edits for the juvenile justice site JJIE.org.


Read more about or contact Eric Ferkenhoff

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