While Americans celebrate President's Day today, it's unlikely they know how many U.S. presidents were actually involved in slavery and human trafficking.
Professor Clarence Lusane of American University recently wrote on The Huffington Post:
More than one in four U.S. presidents were involved in human trafficking and slavery. These presidents bought, sold, and bred enslaved people for profit. Of the 12 presidents who were enslavers, more than half kept people in bondage at the White House.
During an interview with Democracy Now! today (video below), Professor Lusane added, "It’s also important to note that the most iconic building in the U.S., the one that represents the country to the world, the White House, also was a place where slavery existed. Not only that, it was built by slaves."
Professor Lusane also said that President George Washington had nine slaves, one of which, Oney Maria Judge, escaped in 1796 when she discovered that Martha Washington was going to give her away as a wedding gift.
Paul Jennings was a slave owned by President James Madison and was supposed to be released when President Madison died, except Madison's wife Dolly refused to let Jennings go, noted Professor Lusane.
Instead, she made him work for several more years to earn his freedom. Once he was free, however, Jennings brought her food and money because she was broke and Washington D.C. had turned its back on her.