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Obama Jokes About Confederate Ancestor

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Former President Barack Obama joked at a campaign event in Virginia about his distant ancestor, Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

"My mother -- you can trace her lineage -- and ... I'm an eighth or ninth or tenth or something cousin removed from Jefferson Davis, who was the head of the Confederacy," said Obama at an Oct. 19 campaign event for Virginia's Democratic Lt Gov. Ralph Northam, who is running for governor, according to USA Today.

"Think about that," said the former president.

"I'll bet he's spinning in his grave," he added.

In the wake of events at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, which turned deadly, Obama encouraged those at the event to reflect on the history of slavery in America.

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"We shouldn't use the most painful parts of our history just to score political points," said the former president. "We don't rise up by repeating the past, we rise up by learning from the past."

President Donald Trump has encouraged voters to choose Northam's Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie, saying in an Oct. 5 tweet that Northam was in support of violent gangs.

"Ralph Northam, who is running for governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs and sanctuary cities," tweeted the president. "Vote Ed Gillespie!"

Northam spoke at a campaign event on Oct. 11 about how Obama had offered his support to his campaign.

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"President Barack Obama said, 'I want to tell you how important Virginia is to me. It means the world to me. It means our legacy, for me and Michelle. I'm going to do everything that I can to come to Virginia to campaign for you,'" recounted Northam.

The event that Obama spoke at was focused on "the need for the next governor to create economic opportunity for all Virginians," according to Northam's campaign.

At that same event, Obama made reference to his father's Kenyan nationality, which had led previously conservatives, including Trump, to question Obama's status as an American citizen.

"My father was from Kenya, as you know," joked the former president. "Well, some of you know. Some of you may have forgotten."

Some of Obama's ancestors were also slave owners, including his great-great-great-great grandfather, George Washington Overall.

Obama has known about his ancestors' relationship with slavery for a long time, said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. Genealogists reported the link in 2007, according to The New York Times.

"It is a true measure of progress that the descendant of a slave owner would come to marry a student from Kenya and produce a son who would grow up to be a candidate for president of the United States," said Burton.

Sources: USA Today via News 12 Networks, USA Today, The New York Times / Featured Image: Official U.S. Navy Page/Flickr / Embedded Images: William R. Howell/Wikimedia Commons, Virginia Sea Grant/Flickr

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