Is Obama really the first African-American President?

Sure he’s the first black President, but if you go by the ‘one drop’ rule, is he really the first AA President?

If you go by the one-drop rule, they all are.

As are the rest of us, because Homo Sapiens originated in Africa and was presumably dark-skinned there.

I’m pretty sure the OP question is really, is any US President prior to Obama known to have African ancestors younger than the opening of the Age of Discovery.

Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Harding, Coolidge, and Eisenhower are the names I have seen with rumored connection to such ancestors. I assume that at least some of these stories were invented as slurs by political opponents.

And even without political slurs, it’s quite likely that at least some of them did have such ancestors, but it’d be nearly impossible to determine which.

It wouldn’t be that hard. We’d have to find descendants or relatives willing to take a DNA test, that’s all. Caveat: We probably couldn’t use this technique to go back all the way to the time of Washington, but we should be able to go back at lest 5 generations and detect recent African Ancestry. And if we were really determined, we could try and get a sample from the corpse itself.

The DNA test that confirmed Warren Harding’s love child also suggested that he probably did not have recent African ancestors.

You would need to test an awful lot of relatives to get any degree of certainty that was significantly more reliable than the rumor mill. There are relatively few genetic markers that indicate continent of origin, and since genetics is discrete, those markers can be eliminated entirely after only a few generations. It would be possible for a person to be, say, 1/64 African, and yet not bear any of the identified markers of recent African ancestry.

And it just gets worse when you’re not testing the person themself, but their kin: Suppose, for instance, that you find that a statistically-significant number of Coolidge’s descendants have African marker-genes. That could mean that Coolidge had those genes, or it could mean that his wife did. So now you test descendants of his nieces and nephews, on both his side and his wife’s. But maybe their siblings just happened to not get those genes, and so on.

And, of course, this also depends on knowing just who the person’s descendants are. Maybe there are a few bastards, or adoptees, or other breaks in the genetic continuity, some of whom aren’t well-documented.

The phrase “African American” is sometimes used to refer only to those black Americans who were descended from American slaves. By that metric, Obama wouldn’t be African American, he would be (half) Kenyan American.

I’ve never heard that metric used before. Who uses it?

The test gets less accurate as you go further back in time. That’s why I mentioned 5 generations. There, or soon after, the signal can be lost. And obviously the null hypothesis is easier to test since one can inherent genes from either parent. Once you do establish African ancestry in descendants, you have to determine where that ancestry came from. If the subject had siblings, then testing their descendants would help.

Except that he IS descended from an American slave . . . on his mother’s side.

That’s a pretty typical definition, in my experience.

Start at post 17 in this thread. Look particularly at posts from the late Askia.


Also, on Wikipedia’s article, you can see footnotes 6 & 7. I’m surprised this is the first you’ve heard of it. I don’t know if most people make this distinction, but, as I said above, it’s not an uncommon definition.

I tried to figure out how common it is for someone to use the term “African-American” to only refer to descendants of slaves. I put the phrases “African-American” and “only descendants of slaves” in Google. I got 26 results, which for pretty much anything you put into Google is small. Some but not all of those said that the term “African-American” should only refer to descendants of slaves. So some people do use the term that way, but it’s pretty rare.

Once again, not in my experience. Look at the thread John Mace linked to. Even tomndebb quotes the limited definition, and then Askia further limits it.

Those two footnotes in the Wikipedia article quote from some books published by publishers who are a little out of the mainstream. Thanks for the link to Askia’s post, but Askia isn’t giving a common definition either. O.K., using the term “African-American” to refer to only descendants of slaves isn’t quite as rare as I thought, but it’s far from common.

And, for further elaborate, there’s a pretty decent run-down of the term here and its history. To me, there’s no doubt that the term is shifting to be more inclusive of various African heritages, but “descendants of slaves” is the definition I grew up with. I personally have no horse in this race and I’ll call people whatever they want to be called, but it just surprises me that people find this definition rare or uncommon.