Washington Post

More than 1,700 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were, and how they shaped the nation.

From the founding of the United States until long after the Civil War, hundreds of the elected leaders writing the nation's laws were current or former slaveowners.

An 1844 photograph of John Peter Van Ness, an enslaver who represented New York in Congress and later served as mayor of Washington. In D.C., an elementary school, a street and a Metro station are named for him. Foto: Library of Congress

More than 1,700 people who served in the U.S. Congress in the 18th, 19th and even 20th centuries owned human beings at some point in their lives, according to a Washington Post investigation of censuses and other historical records.

The country is still grappling with the legacy of their embrace of slavery. The link between race and political power in early America echoes in complicated ways, from the racial inequities that persist to this day to the polarizing fights over voting rights and the way history is taught in schools...

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