How Many U.S. Presidents Were Slaveholders?

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all men are created equal,” but that really wasn’t the case in early American history, even among the country’s most prominent statesmen. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, owning slaves was common among the men who served as U.S. president -- at least 12 presidents were slave owners at some point during their lifetimes. Eight of those men held slaves while serving in the presidency -- including Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson.

Living in the house that slaves built:

  • Slave laborers helped build the White House, and all of the early presidents -- except for John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams -- were slave owners during their lives.
  • Thomas Jefferson, who once called slavery an “assemblage of horrors,” owned about 175 slaves. Zachary Taylor, who served from 1849 to 1850, was the last president to own slaves while living in the White House.
  • Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, during the U.S. Civil War, declaring that all slaves in Confederate states would henceforth be free.
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Discussion Comments


Yeah, just tell me what was the percentage of black slave owners and the percentage of white slaves? Any situation can have an anomaly. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Don't be an idiot! Anyone with common sense will realize that we are talking about the norm here for American slavery. What kind of psychosis does it take for a human being to have the absolute arrogance and audacity to think that he is God enough to take ownership of another human being?


You can't debunk what actually happened, but if you choose to use Slate for your primary research then you'll continue to have a propagandized view of history around the world.

You're the one definitely in need of the broader perspective, unless you simply prefer to believe in that which you'd like to believe.

Slavery has existed since the beginning of time and has always been practiced by whichever peoples were strong enough to subjugate others.

Sad to see so much interest in slavery 150 years ago, but none for slavery still in practice today. No money in it for those supported by the social justice battalions.


As far as I know, the American system of enslaving Africans was the only system that imposed the surname of the owner on the slave. The impact is still felt today. What's the purpose of renaming millions of people, who already had names, unless it is an attempt to establish ownership?


And, the Slate website has an article that speaks to your points. It's titled "Slavery Myths Debunked." I hope you will read it and allow it to broaden your perspective.


All history needs to be seen with recognition with what was going on in the rest of the world and this constant narrative trying to show America as singularly evil with regards to conquest and slavery is naive at least and duplicitous.

Pretending that slavery was unique to the western civilizations, that the slaves weren't being sold by their brethren in Africa, that there weren't black slave holders in the states, or that there weren't white slaves as well is deliberately misleading and if people want to constantly go on about it, then the whole narrative needs to be talked about.

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