USA Today reports
that President Barack Obama is a direct descendant of John Punch
, the first documented black slave in US history.
, the world's largest online family history resource, announced that after more than 500 hours of research, it has determined that Obama is the 11th great-grandson of Punch, who was an indentured servant in colonial Virginia punished for attempting to run away in 1640 by being made a slave for life.
"Two of the most historically significant African Americans in the history of our country are amazingly directly related," Ancestry.com genealogist Joseph Shumway announced.
Equally amazing is the fact that Obama's connection to Punch comes via his Caucasian mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. One of Dunham's ancestors, named John Bunch, was in all likelihood the son of the slave John Punch.
"All of the surviving evidence we studied very strongly points to the conclusion John Bunch is the son of John Punch," Shumway is quoted
Shumway cited the fact that in the spelling of family names was not standardized and that the family that owned Punch married and lived for generations with members of the Bunch family.
Additionally, the Bunch family has recently published DNA evidence proving roots in sub-Saharan Africa.
The new evidence may shift perceptions about President Obama's "blackness."
Some observers have opined that Obama was somehow "different" because he was not descended from slaves. Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain
, for example, believes that Obama "had never been a part of the black experience in America."
And in a 2007 New York Daily News
column titled "What Obama Isn't: Black Like Me,"
poet and cultural critic Stanley Crouch wrote that "black, in our political and social vocabulary, means those descended from West African slaves."