Folks on Twitter had a field day and gathered Tyler Perry like a ponytail after he posted a birthday tribute to Barack Obama, in which he referred to the former president as a “descendant” of “slaves.” A few social media historians tried to back up the famous filmmaker.
On Aug. 4, the actor and director was dragged to infinity and beyond when he took to Twitter and Instagram to give a sweet shoutout to the former POTUS in honor of his 62nd birthday.
Perry, 53, shared a photo of himself chatting with the former POTUS in his luxurious home library. In the caption, the Diary of a Mad Black Woman star penned a few gushy words about his close friendship with the political star.
“This photo was taken at my house,” the Hollywood veteran wrote. “I bought these chairs from an auction because they belonged to Abraham Lincoln. We both sat in them and had a conversation.”
Then, Perry’s birthday shoutout turned a bit sour when he made a comment about Obama’s ancestry. “I wondered when he freed the slaves could he have imagined that one day a descendant of those slaves would become president of the United States,” the actor wrote. “Only in our America and with all of her flaws…what a great country we live in and we must fight to keep our democracy,” the star added. “Happy Birthday to you President @barackobama.”
Perry’s innocent comment didn’t come from a place of malice, but as we all know, in today’s relentless social media world, internet thugs will jump at any opportunity to drag someone into the public court of shame.
Black Twitter rushed to remind the Tinseltown vet that Obama was not a descendant of American slaves. Many noted that the former president’s father was Kenyan and immigrated to the United States. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was a white anthropologist from Kansas.
A few internet detectives dug deep to investigate the pressing debate. Some netizens pointed to William Reitwiesner’s analysis of Obama’s ancestry.
In 2007, the amateur genealogical researcher found two relatives in Dunham’s family tree that were slave owners in the 1800s, The Guardian reported. Obama’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, George Washington Overall, owned two slaves in Kentucky. The researcher also discovered that the Hawaii native’s great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Duvall, also owned a pair of slaves; a 60-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman. Both were listed in the 1850 census record.
Fact-checkers on Twitter tried to argue that Obama was indeed a descendant of U.S. slaves by citing Ancestry.com’s 2012 study of the former president’s family tree. Genealogists discovered that Dunham was connected to John Punch, who many historians consider to be the first documented slave. In the 1600s, Punch was an indentured servant who escaped servitude in Virginia and fled to Maryland in search of freedom. He was eventually captured and sentenced to servitude for life.
A few Twitter historians tried to argue that Punch wasn’t really a slave because he was an indentured servant. Individuals under indentured servitude could eventually obtain their freedom after they fulfilled their work contract, unlike slaves, who were permanently denied their freedom. The debate went on and on.
Amid the debate, Perry quickly deleted his tweet. He also updated his caption on Instagram to read, “this man” instead of “a descendant of those slaves.”
The famous movie star hasn’t issued a comment on his ancestry blunder.
Man, another day, another Twitter debate. Did you chime in on the frenzy, too?
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