Little Known Black History Fact: John Punch

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  • President Barack Obama’s family lineage has supposedly been linked to the very first slave in the United States. Ironically, the slave, John Punch, has been connected to the President’s mother, who was white. Punch was an indentured servant in Virginia and is considered the first enslaved African in the colonies that formed America. He evidently fathered children with a white woman who gave up her free status.

    Punch, whose existence in the colonies dates back to 1640, tried to escape slavery with two white servants and was instead sentenced to a lifetime of servitude after re-capture (the white slaves were sentenced to prison and whippings). This was during a period that slavery was still in formation and there were no laws or rules governing the treatment or conditions of slaves. There is no clear evidence whether the first slaves were treated as indentured servants or as slaves in Virginia.

    After a team of genealogists from Ancestry.com studied documents for over 500 hours, they believed to have found a physical connection between John Punch and the Bunch family, who were in Virginia in 1640 and were descendants of the President’s mother. They used DNA evidence to track the lineage of the Bunch family to late Ann Dunham, President Barack Obama’s mother. During that time period, the pronunciation of names and words were spelled differently, most likely through sound, which was reflected in documents.

    Based on the findings reported by Ancestry.com, the President of the United States is the 11th great-grandson of John Punch – the very first slave in the colonies.
     

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