Ramblings of the Day

The presidential campaign in 1920 between Warren Harding and James Cox was marked by various rumors and speculations about Mr. Harding's ancestry.

A widely repeated joke from 1920 has two Black men discussing the political situation:

  • Rastus: There's going to be an election this year. Do you know who's running for president?
  • Sambo: Yes, Mr. Harding, I understand.
  • Rastus: Yeah, I know that. But who is the white folks' candidate?

Rumors about Mr. Harding's background had been floating around for years in Marion, and Blooming Grove, Ohio, where he lived. When he proposed marriage to Florence Kling, her outraged father was bitterly opposed. He saw the Hardings as poor trash with a Negro mixture.

Harding married Florence "Flossie" Mabel Kling deWolfe, and she pursued him persistently until he reluctantly gave in.  Her father opposed the marriage, warning her not to marry into the "Black-blooded Harding family."  Warren and "Duchess" had a rocky relationship because of Warren's longstanding affair with the wife of an old friend.  He was labeled a womanizer and drinker despite Prohibition. John T. Kling did not accept Warren as a son-in-law.  He cursed him.

  • "You nigger!"  "I'll blow his head off!"  "He forbade his wife and sons to have anything to do with Flossie" (Russell, 85).

His opponents raised each one of the foregoing issues surrounding his presidency, but he always answered the doubters with a resounding:

  • "No, I'm not a Negro!"  "How should I know?"  "One of my relatives must have jumped the fence."

During the 1920 Campaign, pamphlets were printed that Harding's great-great-grandfather was a West Indian Negro, and other Black ancestors lurked in his family tree. 

Warren's first cousins Mary A. Bowers, Anna Johnson, and friend Berenice Norwood Napper (all with African Ancestry) started "The Warren Gamaliel Harding Memorial Foundation, Inc." in 1990.  The memoriam was held in Riverside, Connecticut, near New London, Connecticut, where Amos Harding, the patriarch owned a 400-acre farm and founded the village of Clifford, Pennsylvania, in 1812.

Mary Ellen Harding-Norman and Warren's Father were First Cousins