Top 10 Most Racist Presidents

A better America means reckoning with our past.

Jeffrey Kass
Published in
11 min readJun 3


Mt. Rushmore
Image: Shutterstock/Shu-Hung LIu

One of the more absurd things President Biden has ever said on race issues is that Trump was the first racist president.

“No sitting president has ever done this [referring to one of Trump’s antagonistic ‘China virus’ remarks] … Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We’ve had racists, and they’ve existed, they’ve tried to get elected president. He’s the first one that has.”

Sorry, Joe, you’re a bit delusional.

Maybe you forgot that through 1920, after the Democrats nominated a virulently racist candidate for president, James B. Cox, the party’s official platform was intentionally and overtly racist.

We’ve had lots of racist presidents. The tough task isn’t finding one. It’s ranking who among them was the worst.

We know that 10 of the first 12 presidents enslaved Black people, according to White House documents. All but John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. The last slave-owning president, Ulysses S. Grant, freed his slave before the Civil War, after which he went on to defeat the Confederacy.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, and Zachary Taylor all owned slaves.

Plus, every president until The Great Emancipator, Lincoln, supported the enslavement of Africans and their descendants in some form or another.

Even the enigmatic Lincoln himself was horrifically racist before he met with Frederick Douglass and helped America defeat the South and slavery.

To be sure, Lincoln used the N-word and regularly told racist jokes. He’s on record as saying that Black people were inferior to whites, and he bragged about enjoying racist minstrel shows.

Even in Lincoln’s initial proposals to end slavery, he wanted to ship Black people back to Africa. Another proposal he made to the Confederate side was to allow slavery to continue until 1900 if they surrendered.

Harry Truman was an ally (and possibly a member) of the Ku Klux Klan early in his career. As president, he changed gears by desegregating the armed forces and banning…



Jeffrey Kass
Writer for

A Medium Top Writer on Racism, Diversity, Education, History and Parenting | Speaker | Award-Winning Author | Latest Book: Black Batwoman V. White Jesus | Dad