You are watching: How many presidents were slave owners
Washington standing amongst African American field workers harvesting grain. (Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
The “peculiar institution” loomed big over the first few decades of American presidential audioeditorfree.com. Not just did enslaved laborers assist build the White House every one of the earliest presidents (except for john Adams and his child John Quincy Adams) owned enslaved people. George Washington retained some 300 bondsmen at his mountain Vernon plantation. Thomas Jefferson—despite as soon as calling enslavement an “assemblage that horrors”—owned at least 175 enslaved employees at one time. James Madison, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson each retained several dozen enslaved workers, and also Martin valve Buren own one throughout his early on career.
William Henry Harrison owned several inherited enslaved human being before becoming president in 1841, while john Tyler and James K. Polk to be both enslavers during their stints in office. Zachary Taylor, who served from 1849-1850, to be the last chief executive, management to save enslaved people while life in the White House. The owned part 150 enslaved employees on plantations in Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Portrait that Isaac Jefferson, an enslaved man owned by cutting board Jefferson circa 1847. (Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images).
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Perhaps surprisingly, the last two presidents to very own enslaved employees were both men closely connected with Abraham Lincoln, who led the country during a polite war brought about in huge part through the divisions sowed through slavery, and also later signed the Emancipation Proclamation and also championed i of the 13th Amendment finishing slavery. Andrew Johnson, who offered as Lincoln’s vice president before coming to be president in 1865, had actually owned in ~ least fifty percent a dozen enslaved world in his native Tennessee and also even lobbied because that Lincoln to exclude the state native the Emancipation Proclamation.
The critical president to personally own enslaved human being was Ulysses S. Grant, who served two terms in between 1869 and also 1877. The former commanding general of the Union army had maintained a lone black enslaved male named wilhelm Jones in the years prior to the civil War, but gave that his liberty in 1859. Give would later on sum increase his evolving see on slavery in 1878, once he was quoted as saying that it to be “a stain to the Union” that human being had once been “bought and also sold prefer cattle.”