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Enslaver Presidents

Twelve United States Presidents enslaved Black people throughout their lifetime. Of these, eight held enslaved people while serving as President. In 12 of the first 16 elections, the winner was a man from the South who owned human beings against their will. John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams were the only early presidents to not enslave people. George Washington held 300 people at his Mount Vernon plantation. Of course, Thomas Jefferson, despite calling slavery an “assemblage of horrors” and a “hideous blot” on America, enslaved 175 people. Andrew Jackson was an enslaver and during his presidency banned the U.S. Postal Service from delivering any antislavery papers. Andrew Johnson, Lincoln’s vice president and eventual president himself, enslaved at least six people in Tennessee and asked Lincoln to exclude the state from the Emancipation Proclamation. Zachary Taylor, whose presidency ended in 1850, was the last sitting President to keep people enslaved. He held 150 people on plantations in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The last president to have ever enslaved people was Ulysses S. Grant. The former Union Army general held one enslaved person, William Jones, whom he freed in 1859. James Madison, James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and James K. Polk round out the list of American Presidents who forced captive Black people to work for them.

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