Shamefully, most of the presidents who served before and immediately after the American Civil War owned slaves.
Thomas Jefferson, who wrote ringing proclamations about the equality of all people, owned 185 slaves at Monticello.
When the Revolutionary War broke out, 22 of his slaves decided they had little chance of getting freedom from the Americans, so they ran away to fight for the British.
A widower, Jefferson also apparently fathered several children with his slave Sally Hemmings.
Here’s a twist to the story: Thanks to a similar master-slave liaison, Sally Hemmings happened to be the deceased Mrs. Jefferson’s half-sister.
Other slave-owning presidents: Zachary Taylor owned more than 300 slaves while in the White House.
George Washington owned 216. Others included Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, and Johnson.
Most mystifying, though, was Union general Ulysses S. Grant. He owned four while fighting Southerners over the issue of slavery, and he refused to free his slaves until after the Civil War ended, when he was forced to do so by law.
Ironically, his counterpart on the Southern side, General Robert E. Lee, was morally opposed to the institution of slavery and never owned one.