Presidents have made racist gestures throughout US history

FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks on the telephone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. In the background is a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson which Trump had installed in the first few days of his administration. President Donald Trump may have raised eyebrows over a series of racist tweets in July 2019 but it's not the first time a U.S. president has sparked attention for racist gestures. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s recent tweets aren’t the first time a president has drawn attention for racist gestures.

Throughout American history, presidents have uttered comments, issued decisions and made public and private moves that critics said were racist, either at the time or in later generations.

Thomas Jefferson wrote that black slaves smelled and couldn’t produce art or poetry. Woodrow Wilson screened the racist film “The Birth of a Nation” at the White House without apology. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon used racist epithets in secretly recorded conversations with aides.

Many of the early presidents owned black slaves. They also held power when African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos did not have the right to vote or serve on juries and could be refused service in public accommodations.