Black woman details ties to Warren G. Harding
Share with others:
While others may view the stories about Warren G. Harding's black ancestry as rumor, Marsha Stewart sees it as fact.
Mrs. Stewart, a 60-year-old black woman who teaches at a high school in suburban Detroit, is a fifth cousin to the 29th president, according to her family history.
"When I grew up in the '50s, my grandparents said it's OK to talk about it in the family setting but it's not OK to talk about it outside of the family settings," Mrs. Stewart said.
Her 2005 book, "Warren Harding U.S. President 29: Death By Blackness," details her family connection to Harding.
"He was my great-grandmother's first cousin," Mrs. Stewart said. Adding that her great-grandmother, Mary Harding Norman, and Warren Harding's father, George Tryon Harding, were first cousins.
She traces their common ancestors back to the black settlers of Isabella, Montcalm and Mecosta counties in central Michigan. Warren Harding's immediate family remained in Ohio, but other branches moved to Michigan, according to Mrs. Stewart, who said those are the Hardings from whom she is descended.
"My mother talks about Warren Harding coming to a cousin's funeral in Michigan," Mrs. Stewart said. "When he drove in everybody sort of knew who he was. He attended the funeral, and he left."
She said she has been contacted by Warren Harding's grandchildren and great-grandchildren several times. "They tell me they've heard rumors that they have black blood."
While Warren Harding never really denied he may have had black ancestors, he never declared himself black.
When asked why she believes her cousin never did so, Mrs. Stewart said, "Because we live in America. To be a true American, [you can't be] black even though we've been here for centuries. That's just the truth."
First Published February 5, 2008 12:00 am