Wondering where the “W” in George W. Bush comes from? Funny story…via Slate:
New historical evidence shows that a direct ancestor of George W. and George H.W. Bush was part of an appalling group: Thomas Walker was a notorious slave trader active in the late 18th century along the coast of West Africa.
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. The historical evidence suggests that he died at sea in 1797 when his own crew mutinied and threw him overboard.
Letters from 1787, addressed to Bristol slave dealer James Rogers, show Walker complaining about the high cost of slaves. The June 23 letter states: “Slaves is at the price of 150 [illegible] and the coast seemes [sic] to be lin’d with vessels of all kind.”
The July 2 letter says: “I have purchased seventeen fine negroes and am this day proceeding down the coast to try what I do can there. Slaves is at a very greate [sic] price.”
Bush historian Gary Boyd Roberts said that while he had not known of Walker’s slave dealing, the finding did not surprise him, given that the Walkers were a mercantile family and Baltimore, where they established themselves in the United States, was a hub for the slave trade.
The only other president with definite slave dealer ancestry was Thomas Jefferson, whose father-in-law, John Wayles, was a planter, slave trader and lawyer in the Virginia Colony.
George W. Bush denounced the slave trade as one of “the greatest crimes of history” on his 2003 visit to Goree Island, a former slave fort off the coast of the Senegalese capital, Dakar. “Small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters,” he said.