New link suggests George W. Bush direct descendant of notorious slave trader

Slate investigated the claims of two historians who claim Thomas Walker was involved in 11 slave voyages to Africa

Topics: slavery, George W. Bush, thomas walker, slave trade, West Africa, George H.W. Bush,

A new three-page report in Slate asserts that former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush are direct descendants of Thomas “Beau” Walker, one of the most notorious slave traders in the 18th century.

It’s long been known that the Bushes’ ancestors owned slaves — as did at least 25 other presidents’ families — but according to Slate reporter Simon Akam, “Walker, George H.W. Bush’s great-great-great grandfather, was the captain of, master of, or investor in at least 11 slaving voyages to West Africa between 1784 and 1792.”

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“This is the first time an ancestor of Bush has been directly linked to the brutal trans-Atlantic trade in which millions perished,” Akam writes.

Akam’s conclusion comes from the discovery that two prominent Thomas Walkers — one who settled in America and produced the Bush clan, and one who owned property in Sierra Leone and worked in the slave trade business — are likely the same person.

Retired newspaper editor and genealogist Roger Hughes and American historian Joseph Opala first suspected the link when they discovered the uncanny similarity between handwriting in letters from Bush’s known ancestor and Thomas “Beau” Walker, the slave trader. Hughes presented the letters to a Yale handwriting expert, and Akam independently verified with several others.

Hughes said he was convinced, based on the historical evidence, that Bush’s forebear Walker was the same man as the known slave trader. “If I had to testify to this, I’d say this is the same guy.

“If it’s not the same guy, I’m going to the gallows.”

The Bush family’s spokesman had no comment on the findings, but Slate notes that in 2003, George W. Bush called slavery one of the “the greatest crimes of history.”

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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