Don’t tell Nate Terrell that Barack Obama is the first black president of the United States. He and others, thinks that evidence — if not traditional history — shows there already have been several U.S. presidents of mixed race.
“… (I)f we go with George Washington as our first (American president), then Obama would be No. 7,” said Terrell, department chairman and associate professor of sociology at Emporia State University, who received his doctorate in sociology from Iowa State University. “But we have six presidents whose parents — five mothers, one father — had black blood. But we never claimed that for these folks.”
The possibilities are something he said he has presented to his students for about six or seven years.
Terrell deals with the possibility of black U.S. presidents in two classes at ESU — race and ethnic relations and introduction to sociology.
That issue is not something found routinely in history texts used in schools around the country. Terrell’s information comes from piecing together information from other sources that include books written by Abraham Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, and a biography by Chancellor Williams.
Thomas Jefferson, Terrell said, was the country’s first black president.
“Most researchers look at this as ‘hypodescent,’” he said. “So if you have a mixed child, then that child is going to be black, if they have any black blood.”
Terrell asserts that Jefferson’s mixed blood came from his mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson.
“Her father was considered mulatto mix with black and (India) Indian, so his grandfather is considered black and Indian,” Terrell said.
Andrew Jackson was the second president alleged to be black.
“The story behind him is his mother migrated from Ireland to what we called the Crawford Farm, where her sister was,” Terrell explained.
The woman who would become Jackson’s mother already had been widowed before she arrived at Crawford farm.
“And she had a union with a slave on the plantation, so the only way we would allow that to happen was if this was a light-skinned slave,” Terrell said.
One of the source books traces Andrew Jackson’s brother being sold into slavery.
“He’s the first one (president), actually, I would say, that the father had black blood,” Terrell said. “Most likely the father was one of the light-skinned slaves around the plantation.”
Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln, was credited with providing the black blood some believe to be in the 16th president of the United States.
“That, for most people, is not a surprise,” Terrell said. “Nancy Hanks, his mother, her father was Ethiopian, so it’s like how can Nancy’s father be Ethiopian? Rumor was she had an illegitimate child with a father who was mixed. … We’re pretty sure with Abraham Lincoln that her father was from the Ethiopian tribe. That actually came from his law partner, William Herndon.”
Herndon, at one point, wrote that Lincoln believed he was not the son of Thomas Lincoln, but the son of another man, whose name Herndon said Lincoln had sought.
Herndon’s book, “Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life” is available online for less than $40. The book, as well as documentations that became sources for books by others, grew from Herndon’s long and close association with the president.
“The Hidden Lincoln: From the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon,” credits both Herndon and Emanuel Hertz as authors. It also is available online for less than $20.
Warren G. Harding
Terrell named Warren G. Harding as the nation’s fourth black president.
“Harding’s father, George Harding, was mulatto,” Terrell said. “They describe him as a man with big lips and chocolate skin.”
Chancellor Williams wrote a book mentioning Harding’s ancestry, Terrell said.
“The weird thing is our government, the Justice Department, tried to buy up all of the books and destroy them. I thought, ‘Why?’” Terrell said.
Williams reportedly quoted Harding as saying, “How should I know whether or not one of my ancestors may have jumped the fence?” Terrell added.
Harding got his only academic degree from Iberia College, which had been founded to educate fugitive slaves, Terrell said.
Black president No. 5 on Terrell’s list is Calvin Coolidge, whose mother, Victoria Moore, was said to be of mixed blood.
“They said she had fair complexion with a ‘rich growth,’ they called it, of brown hair,” Terrell said. “There’s a story that his grandfather, when Calvin Coolidge turned 18, told him, ‘Happy birthday. Here’s your 40 acres and a mule.’
“The Republican party promised slaves when they were released, they’d give ’em 40 acres and a mule.”
Terrell believes it is possible that Coolidge’s mother’s surname, a variation on “Moor,” came from a European habit of giving the surname “specifically to black people in Europe.”
The most-recent president believed to perhaps have mixed descent is Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was born in Texas and reared in Kansas.
“The rumor was his dad was mixed, coming out of Africa,” Terrell said. “… But his mother, Ida (Elizabeth) Stover Eisenhower, was mulatto. And when I show people pictures of her they say, ‘Oh well, we can tell. Just by looking at mom, we can tell she was mixed.’”
The photograph reputed to be of Eisenhower’s mother and father was published this year by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in conjunction with several articles run on the subject of black presidents.
Terrell’s teachings also come through books by historians Joel A. Rodgers, Dr. Leroy Vaughn and Dr. Auset Bakhufu.
Although Vaughn does not assert that Eisenhower was of mixed ancestry, his 2006 book, “Black People And Their Place in World History” states there may have been five black U.S. Presidents, according to the online news, The Daily Voice, Black America’s Daily News Source.
The Daily Voice states, “Vaughn cites what he says is literary evidence that Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge all ‘had Black people among their ancestors.’ The Daily Voice could find no major national news outlet or presidential scholar who has ever confirmed that claim.”
Bakhufu appears to be the only historian of the three who includes Eisenhower in his book, “The Six Black Presidents: Black Blood, White Masks.” Depending upon the Web site, the book is available at costs ranging from about $13 to $150.