Fact Check: Kamala Harris Descended From A Slave Owner, But It's Not 'An Inconvenient Part Of Her History' Or A 'Deep, Dark Secret' That 'Could Come Back To Haunt Her'

Fact Check

  • by: Alan Duke
Fact Check: Kamala Harris Descended From A Slave Owner, But It's Not 'An Inconvenient Part Of Her History' Or A 'Deep, Dark Secret' That 'Could Come Back To Haunt Her' No Dark Secret

Did Kamala Harris descend from a slave owner and it is a "deep, dark secret" that has "come back to haunt" her? Yes, it is true that Sen. Harris does apparently have an Irish great-great-great-great-great grandfather who owned slaves in Jamaica, it is also likely that Harris's great-great-great-great-great grandmother was his slave and was impregnated through rape. This is no "dark secret," but an ancestral fact shared by many African Americans. A genealogical expert estimates that about one-third of all African Americans are descendants of slave owners because of coerced sex with female slaves.

The claims originated in 2019 when Harris was a presidential candidate and reappeared immediately after Joe Biden chose her as his vice-presidential running mate. One example is an article (archived here) published by The Gateway Pundit on August 11, 2020, under the title "Flashback: Father of Kamala Harris Details on How Their Ancestors Owned Slaves". It opened:

The father of Kamala Harris detailed how their ancestors owned slaves, an inconvenient part of her history as she has spent much of her campaign focusing on race politics.
The Democrats have been up in arms about an NBC News report that detailed how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's great-great-grandfathers owned slaves in Alabama in the 1800s.

This is how one of the stories appeared on social media at the time of writing:

Slave Owners

Posted by Gateway Pundit on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Another version was published by The Federalist on June 29, 2019 with the title "Kamala Harris' Father Outs Her As A Complete Fraudster." It suggested that Harris's ancestry made her a hypocrite on race relations and for claiming she is an African American:

She has been one of the main proponents of giving reparations to the descendants of slaves with taxpayer funds.

What makes this story, which was originally reported in March, more poignant now is that she has given voters the impression that "he is African-American.

But now a deep, dark secret from her family's past could come back to haunt her platform and her campaign.

And it comes at the hands of Harris' father who has again become a thorn in the side of his own daughter's ambitions.

These stories are all based on an essay published by Donald Harris, the senator's Jamaican father, which has since been taken offline but archived here, titled "Reflections of a Jamaican Father":

My roots go back, within my lifetime, to my paternal grandmother Miss Chrishy (née Christiana Brown, descendant of Hamilton Brown who is on record as plantation and slave owner and founder of Brown's Town) and to my maternal grandmother Miss Iris (née Iris Finegan, farmer and educator, from Aenon Town and Inverness, ancestry unknown to me). The Harris name comes from my paternal grandfather Joseph Alexander Harris, land-owner and agricultural 'produce' exporter (mostly pimento or all-spice), who died in 1939 one year after I was born and is buried in the church yard of the magnificent Anglican Church which Hamilton Brown built in Brown's Town (and where, as a child, I learned the catechism, was baptized and confirmed, and served as an acolyte).

Hamilton Brown was born in Ireland in 1776 and immigrated to Jamaica, where he became a prominent sugar planter and owner of slaves, according to one historical record. Brown died in 1843 at the age of 68, 46 years before Kamala Harris's paternal great-grandmother Christiana Brown (known as Miss Chrishy) was born and 121 years before Kamala's birth. This would make it likely that the slave owner Brown was at least seven generations removed from Kamala.


This is a photo of Kamala Harris's paternal great-grandmother Miss Chrishy, published in Donald Harris's article.


This is a photo of great-grandmother Miss Iris, holding young Kamala in her lap in 1966.

But this shows a common history with a large number of American Blacks, according to Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard historian and host of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots." The five DNA testing companies that work with his project found that the average African American has between 20% and 29% European DNA, Gates wrote in an article titled "Exactly How 'Black' Is Black America?"

A whopping 35 percent of all African-American men descend from a white male ancestor who fathered a mulatto child sometime in the slavery era, most probably from rape or coerced sexuality. In other words, if we tested the DNA of all of the black men in the NBA, for instance, just over one-third descend from a white second or third great-grandfather.

Having a white slave owner as a great-great-great-great-great grandfather does not rule Kamala Harris out as being African American. Instead, it gives her commonality with a large percentage of African Americans.

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes thegatewaypundit.com as:

A partisan conservative website that regularly publishes hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and unsubstantiated claims, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

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  Alan Duke

Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke co-founded Lead Stories after ending a 26-year career with CNN, where he mainly covered entertainment, current affairs and politics. Duke closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat. Duke also co-hosted a daily podcast with former HLN host Nancy Grace, "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" and hosted the podcast series "Stan Lee's World: His Real Life Battle with Heroes & Villains." You'll also see Duke in many news documentaries, including on the Reelz channel, CNN and HLN.

Read more about or contact Alan Duke

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