An old article by Sen. Kamala Harris’ father stating his ancestors owned slaves has presented supporters of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate with an unpleasant choice.
They either must accuse Harris’ father of lying or admit that their candidate, who made racism a major issue in the first debate, lacks credibility.
The far-left “fact-check” site Snopes chose a third way, however, dancing around the issue. Snopes acknowledged her father wrote the article but concluded the claim was “unproven.”
The site explained it was “the right-leaning website” Big League Politics that posted a report naming slaves owned by Harris’ ancestor Hamilton Brown.
The namesake of Brown’s Town in Jamaica, Brown recruited massive numbers of Irish migrants to Jamaica to work on his sugar plantations after the British empire abolished slavery, according to Donald Harris, the senator’s father.
A retired Stanford University economics professor, Donald Harris was born in Jamaica and arrived in the U.S. in the 1960s. He married Shyamala Gopalan, an Indian cancer researcher, but the couple separated after Kamala and her sister, Maya, were born.
Donald Harris wrote: “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).”
Snopes said there is “no doubt that Hamilton Brown was a prominent plantation owner in Jamaica during the first half of the 19th century, owned slaves, and also advocated against the abolition of slavery and sought to downplay the difficult working and living conditions of slaves in Jamaica.”
But the site said it couldn’t verify the family links between the slave owner and the contemporary Harris family.
“As such, the claim that an ancestor of Sen. Harris owned slaves in Jamaica remains unproven.”
The public policy website California Political Review said the issue of Harris’s ancestry is relevant because the senator has advocated for reparations to be paid to the descendants of slaves.
“It’s a ridiculous supposition, of course, to hold anyone responsible for the actions of distant relatives hundreds of years ago,” the site said. “If we travel far enough back, most of us are likely related to slave owners at some point in history since selling people into slavery has always been a part of the human story across the globe. But since Harris has decided to embrace reparation theology, shouldn’t she lead by example?”
Big League Politics cited Jamaican Family Search, which said Hamilton Brown “owned several plantations, including one named Minard, which had 128 slaves on site.
A list of slaves he owned is recorded in the National Archives in London and the University College London’s “Legacies of British Slave-ownership.”
Critics have questioned Harris’ “blackness,” because she was born in the U.S. to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father.
The heritage claims of another Democratic candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., haven’t fared well. She claimed a Native American heritage based on “family lore.” But a DNA test later indicated she was less Native American than most Americans.