Slaves and history according to Ben Carson

Media captionBen Carson calls US slaves ‘immigrants’

There is history, and then there is history according to Ben Carson. The two are not always the same thing.

Mr Carson entered the race to become the Republican nominee in the US presidential election in May 2015.

Quite a lot has happened since then. He dropped out of the race, Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and the election, and Mr Carson became his secretary of housing and urban development.

Some things have not changed though – notably, Mr Carson’s colourful and disputed views on certain events in history. This popped up again on Monday, when the former brain surgeon called US slaves immigrants. It is fair to say the comments have not gone down well.

So what else has he said in the past?


“That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity,” Mr Carson told staff on Monday, his first day in his new job.

“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream.”

Needless to say, the portrayal of slaves as willing immigrants seeking opportunity in the States is incorrect. Mr Carson later acknowledged as much on his Facebook page, saying: “The slave narrative and immigrant narrative are two entirely different experiences.”

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Samuel L Jackson: Not a man you want to upset, as Mr Carson learned

One person who definitely did not agree was actor Samuel L Jackson. The only words of his tweet that are safe to publish here are: “OK!! Ben Carson….I can’t! Immigrants? In the bottom of SLAVE SHIPS??!!”

He also referenced Uncle Tom – a slur used against a black person seen as subservient to white people.

Mr Carson has in the past noted the harmful impact of slavery, using it as a benchmark against policies he violently disagrees with.

In 2013, he said President Obama’s healthcare reform plan was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery” and then, in October 2015, compared women who seek abortions to slaveholders.

‘The pyramids were grain stores’

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Spoiler: no they weren’t

Back in November 2015, Buzzfeed published a video of Mr Carson saying the pyramids were built by the Biblical figure Joseph for storing grain.

The video was filmed 17 years earlier but Mr Carson, at the time the Republican frontrunner, told journalists that his views had not changed.

It is an idea that has been around for some time, as we reported back in 2015.

In the Old Testament, Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers, where he later interprets a pharaoh’s dreams and helps the Egyptians survive a seven-year famine – by storing grain.

There is no mention of pyramids in the Bible’s version of the story but, in the Middle Ages, people started to write them into the story. It was removed at about the time of the Renaissance.

It is now however widely believed the pyramids were built to house the remains of pharaohs and queens.

The Big Bang was a fairy tale

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Scientists would beg to differ

In a speech to fellow Seventh-Day Adventists in 2012, he said the Big Bang was one of many “fairy tales” being peddled by “highfalutin scientists” and that the order in the solar system showed that creation was a planned event.

This is in keeping with Mr Carson’s religious beliefs. Here is not the place to present the scientific evidence to dispute Mr Carson’s theory, so we’ll leave that to Prof Stephen Hawking.

The Holocaust and guns

Back in October 2015, when he was still second-favourite to win the Republican nomination, he suggested the Holocaust may have been avoided if people had been armed.

“The likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed,” he told CNN.

One anti-Semitism monitoring group said that linking US gun control to the Holocaust was historically inaccurate, but Mr Carson defended his comments, saying he was emphasising the point of the right to bear arms.

“Basically, what I said is when tyranny occurs traditionally around the world, they try to disarm the people first,” he said.

His own history

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Some of Mr Carson’s claims about his own past have been disputed

In late 2015 he defended stories he had told about his troubled childhood in his autobiography, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.

His campaign backed away from his claim that he had been admitted to the prestigious US military academy at West Point.

But Mr Carson continued to stand by his assertion that, as a teenager, he tried to stab a relative, and angrily denounced what he called liberal bias in a CNN investigation that found no corroborating witnesses to the event.

One magazine summed up the oddness of his story, headlining its article: “Ben Carson defends himself against allegations that he never attempted to murder a child.”

Slaves and history according to Ben Carson